Washington, Jan 18 (Agencies): Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said the United States hoped Sudan's political parties "seize this moment" after a referendum vote she hailed as a "significant achievement."

"The United States commends the millions of Southern Sudanese people who participated in this historic process, and applauds both northern and southern leaders for creating conditions that allowed voters to cast their ballots freely and without fear, intimidation or coercion," Clinton said.

Poll observers from both the European Union and the six-nation east African bloc, which helped broker the 2005 peace deal that provided for the week-long referendum on splitting the country in two, earlier said the voting had been "credible."

Former US president Jimmy Carter's foundation also said the vote on partitioning what is both Africa's and the Arab world's largest nation had broadly met international standards.

"The completion of a peaceful, orderly Southern Sudan referendum marks a significant achievement for the Sudanese people and a historic step toward full implementation of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement," Clinton said in a statement.

"We welcome the positive statements issued in recent days by international observer missions."
Sudanese political parties throughout the country "have an opportunity to forge a durable peace between the North and the South, and to build positive relationships with the international community," she added.

Washington, she said, hopes the parties "will seize this moment, and the United States supports their efforts to ensure a peaceful, more prosperous future for all Sudanese."

Partial results trickling in after seven days of voting showed a landslide for secession of mainly Christian southern Sudan from the Muslim north, antagonists in a devastating 1983-2005 civil war.
South Sudan's president Salva Kiir urged his people to forgive the north for the war, in which an estimated two million people died.