Thousands Vote In Southern Sudan As Violence Flares In Disputed Region

Thousands more people streamed to polling places in a historic referendum on independence for Southern Sudan on Monday even as violence flared in a disputed region between north and south.

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, meanwhile, said Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir told him that Southern Sudan should not have to shoulder Sudan's debt should it secede from the county. The question of how to split Sudan's debt is one of several issues that would have to be resolved if the south votes for independence, as is widely expected.

""I spoke with President al-Bashir. He said the entire debt should be assigned to north Sudan and not to the southern part,"" Carter told CNN Monday morning. ""So, in a way, Southern Sudan is starting with a clean sheet on debt. They'll have to make some arrangement for other sources of income, of course.""

The south would become independent in July if voters choose independence and no other obstacles emerge. Voting began on Sunday and will end Saturday.

The referendum is a hallmark of the 2005 peace treaty that ended 22 years of war between a government dominated by Arab Muslims in the north and black Christians and animists in the south. That war killed at least 2 million.

At one polling station in the south, in Lologo, on the outskirts of the southern capital of Juba, some people slept nearby or arrived early Monday. The reason: So many voters showed up on Sunday that some were turned away.

Mary Luluwa shuffled to the front of the line with her wooden cane. She is almost totally blind and had to be shown by election officials how to place her thumbprint.

Luluwa doesn't know exactly how old she is, but she said she is certain how she will vote. ""For freedom,"" she said. ""I am very happy to vote, it's my first time, I am old and I can't see much, but I voted for my children."""