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AP Photo South Sudanese Catholic Archbishop Paulino Lukudu holds up mock ballots during a service attended by President Salva Kiir in Juba, Southern Sudan, Sunday Jan. 16, 2011. The Southern Sudan's president on Sunday offered a prayer of forgiveness for northern Sudan and the killings that occurred during a two-decade civil war, as the first results from a weeklong independence referendum showed an overwhelming vote for secession. About four million Southern Sudanese voters cast their ballots in a weeklong referendum on independence that is expected to split Africa's largest nation in two.(AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is congratulating the people of Sudan for the weeklong referendum on the future of the south.

The vote in southern Sudan is expected to lead to independence for that region. Sudan’s north and south ended a two-decade civil war in 2005 that called for a vote for southern independence.

Obama says in a statement that the sight of so many Sudanese participating in peaceful and orderly voting is “an inspiration to the world.” The president also says the vote is a tribute to the determination of Sudanese and leaders of south Sudan to forge a better future.

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