Southern Sudan referendum: 'Massive vote to split'
With most votes counted in Southern Sudan's referendum, 99% of people have opted for independence from the north, officials say.
Official results are due next month but correspondents say the outcome of the week-long poll is not in doubt.
However, the former rebels now running oil-rich Southern Sudan have urged people not to celebrate yet.
President Omar al-Bashir has said he will accept the result of the vote, which was held after years of war.
The BBC's Peter Martell in Juba says this is the news many in the south have been waiting to hear - that the number of votes cast in favour of independence has passed the required 50%.
The results were published on a website published by the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission, and officials have confirmed they are genuine.
It says that 83% of votes in the south have been counted, along with 100% of those in the north and the eight foreign countries where polling was held.
Just 1.4% of people have voted for continued unity with the north.
More than 3m ballots have been counted so far, with several hundred thousands still to come.Giant party
Southern Sudan Referendum Bureau spokesman Aleu Garang Aleu said counting should be finished on 31 January and final results announced on 14 February, after any appeals had been dealt with.
Our correspondent says southern leaders are waiting for these results to be declared and accepted by the north before the giant party being planned begins.
If the result is confirmed, the new country is set to formally declare its independence on 9 July.
The mainly Arabic-speaking, Muslim north has fought the south, where most are Christian or follow traditional religions, for most of Sudan's post-independence history.
In order for the referendum to be valid, more than 50% of voters must back secession and at least 60% of registered voters must take part.
Election officials have previously said that the 60% threshold had been passed.
Both Sudan and the South are reliant on their oil revenues, which account for 98% of South Sudan's budget. But the two countries cannot agree how to divide the oil wealth of the former united state. Some 75% of the oil lies in the South but all the pipelines run north. It is feared that disputes over oil could lead the two neighbours to return to war.
Although they were united for many years, the two Sudans were always very different. The great divide is visible even from space, as this Nasa satellite image shows. The northern states are a blanket of desert, broken only by the fertile Nile corridor. South Sudan is covered by green swathes of grassland, swamps and tropical forest.
Sudan's arid north is mainly home to Arabic-speaking Muslims. But in South Sudan there is no dominant culture. The Dinkas and the Nuers are the largest of more than 200 ethnic groups, each with its own languages and traditional beliefs, alongside Christianity and Islam.
The health inequalities in Sudan are illustrated by infant mortality rates. In South Sudan, one in 10 children die before their first birthday. Whereas in the more developed northern states, such as Gezira and White Nile, half of those children would be expected to survive.
The gulf in water resources between north and south is stark. In Khartoum, River Nile, and Gezira states, two-thirds of people have access to piped drinking water and pit latrines. In the south, boreholes and unprotected wells are the main drinking sources. More than 80% of southerners have no toilet facilities whatsoever.
Throughout the two Sudans, access to primary school education is strongly linked to household earnings. In the poorest parts of the south, less than 1% of children finish primary school. Whereas in the wealthier north, up to 50% of children complete primary level education.
Conflict and poverty are the main causes of food insecurity in both countries. In Sudan, many of the residents of war-affected Darfur and the border states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan, depend on food aid. The UN said about 2.8m people in South Sudan would require food aid in 2013. The northern states tend to be wealthier, more urbanised and less reliant on agriculture.