Washington, Jan 27 (Agencies): As a sign of positive gesture, the United States is ready to move ahead in normalising ties with Sudan after it allowed a peaceful vote on secession in the south, but insisted it would not overlook Darfur.

Foreign Minister Ali Karti met with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday on a trip to Washington, just weeks after 99 per cent of the largely Christian and animist south voted to split from Africa's largest country.

Clinton praised Sudan for its handing of the referendum, a key part of a 2005 peace deal ending more than two decades of war that left over two million people dead and around twice as many displaced.

"We very much appreciate the government of Sudan's cooperation and assistance in ensuring a peaceful referendum and we look forward to continuing to work with the minister and the government," she said.

In a subsequent statement, the State Department said its boss "reaffirmed US willingness to take steps toward normalisation of relations, as Sudan meets its commitments under the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement."

Those commitments include negotiating further arrangements in the south—but also helping resolve the separate conflict in the parched western region of Darfur, a longstanding source of tension.

After years of friction, Karti struck a sharply different tone as he publicly thanked the US for its assistance for the referendum and "for all they have done (throughout) the history of Sudan."

"We are here also to look to the future, and to cooperate and work together," Karti said.

Officials said Karti was seeking an easing of economic sanctions on Sudan. The United States has banned virtually all trade with Sudan since 1997, and President Barack Obama extended the restrictions in November.