South Sudan's independence vote ends

image captionFinal results are not expected before next month

Voting has ended in Sudan in the south's historic independence referendum, with a large turnout for the week-long poll.

The vote is widely expected to see the south choose overwhelmingly for separation from the north.

The referendum was a condition of a 2005 peace deal which ended a 21-year civil war.

Official results of the vote - which was largely peaceful - are not expected until early next month.

'We are free'

Polling stations closed in Sudan at 1800 local time (1500 GMT) on Saturday.

Southern Sudanese Christian Bishop Paul Yugusk played what he called the "final trumpet" on the rule by the mainly Muslim north.

"I chose this day to close it with a trumpet, and this trumpet marking... the end of slavery, domination, and - overall - we are free," the bishop said in the southern capital of Juba.

Turnout was extremely high for the vote, with the referendum commission chairman saying that by the close of polling on Friday some 83% of the registered voters cast their ballots in the south.

Many of those were in the first few days, with giant queues snaking for hundreds of metres around polling stations.

However, in recent days it was a quieter affair, with just a few people trickling in, the BBC's Peter Martell in Juba reports.

About 53% of the eligible voters turned out in the north.

Reports from international observers have been almost universally optimistic, saying that so far the vote has been free and fair.

That has come as massive relief to the south, for whom this vote means so much, our correspondent says.

A senior official from Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir's National Congress Party said on Saturday that Khartoum would accept the outcome of the vote even if it meant partition of Africa's largest nation.

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