South Sudan ex-rebels hail valid independence vote

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Juba, Jan 12, (AFP) South Sudan''s ruling party saidtoday that the 60-per cent turnout threshhold required for alandmark independence vote to be valid has been reached afterjust three days of polling.

The former rebel Sudan People''s Liberation Movementcited its own estimates for the achievement which has to beofficially confirmed by the South Sudan Referendum Commissionthat is organising the week-long vote.

But there were long queues at polling stations againtoday as voters responded to calls from the party for a "100per cent turnout," although the shine was taken off thejubilant mood in the south by deadly tensions over theflashpoint district of Abyei on the border with the north.

"The mark that would make the referendum valid ispast," said senior SPLM official Anne Itto.

"The 60-per cent threshold has been achieved but we...

are asking for a 100-percent turnout."

Referendum commission spokeswoman Suad Ibrahim saidthe SPLM''s boast was plausible. "It''s quite possible. It couldeven be higher," she told AFP.

Ito called on those who had not cast their ballots todo.

"Voting is an honour to those who sacrificed theirlives so we can have this choice today," she said, referringto the devastating 1983-2005 civil war with the north in whichan estimated two million people died.

"It is a great opportunity that will not happenagain."

Loudspeaker trucks criss-crossed the potholed dirttracks of Juba urging voters to respond to the call.

"It is important that you go out to vote, have yourcards with you. You have only three days more, freedom can''twait," the hailers intoned to the accompaniment of loudAfrican music.

The shine was taken off the party mood by the deathsof 10 southerners returning from the north for the referendumin an ambush by heavily armed Misseriya Arab tribesmen onMonday.

The attack was the latest incident in an upsurge ofviolence over Abyei, a disputed district on the north-southborder where the nomadic Misseriya are engaged in bitterclashes with pro-southern Dinka farmers over the its future,which have claimed at least 33 lives since Friday.

Sudanese Interior Minister Ibrahim Mohammed Ibrahimwas due to hold talks with Misseriya leaders in Abyei todayafter South Kordofan provincial governor Ahmed Mohammed Harunmade a controversial visit to the UN-patrolled district onSunday. (AFP)

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