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It's official: South Sudan a new country

From Nima Elbagir, CNN
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World's newest nation
  • NEW: South Sudan becomes world's newest country
  • Khartoum recognizes the sovereignty of the South, within the 1956 borders
  • Those borders put the contested region of Abyei in the north
  • A new U.N. peacekeeping mission will step in

Juba, Sudan (CNN) -- South Sudan took a seat at the world's table early Saturday as citizens of the new country took to the streets to celebrate.

Cars rolled through the capital of Juba. Occupants waved flags and honked horns to celebrate sovereignty recognized Friday by Sudan.

"The Republic of the Sudan announces its acknowledgement of the establishment of the Republic of South Sudan as a sovereign state within the 1956 boundaries," announced Bakri Hassan Salih, minister for presidential affairs.

The reference to the 1956 boundaries, however, was controversial because that puts the contested region of Abyei in the north.

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The region, the size of Connecticut, is home to the Ngok Dinka people, who are closely allied with the South, but it also serves as grazing grounds for northern Misseriya tribes.

It was a battleground for decades in the brutal civil war fought between northern and southern forces. A referendum on whether the area should be part of the north or the South has been delayed over disagreement over who is eligible to vote.

In recent weeks fighting has erupted in Abyei again, sparking fears of another war and marring preparations for the celebrations.

The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously to send up to 7,000 peacekeepers and 900 uniformed police to the new country of South Sudan.

The mandate of the previous U.N. mission runs out Saturday with South Sudan's independence and the peacekeepers will be a part of a new operation for the global body. The Security Council is expected to meet again Wednesday to discuss U.N. membership for the new nation.

In Juba, the mood was jubilant Friday, despite the bloodshed in Abyei and in oil-rich South Kordofan, a state in the north where many people are allied with the South.

The airport was closed to commercial flights to allow for the arrival of expected dignitaries for the independence celebration.

South Sudan natives voted overwhelmingly in January to secede. The referendum to split was part of a 2005 peace deal aimed at ending the decades of violence between the two sides.

The two countries look set to divorce in name only. There are no agreements on the borders, the oil, or even the status of their respective citizens.

But Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir is still expected in Juba later Saturday, a gesture of pragmatism and what his office is calling a hope for brotherly relations.

The South, in turn, is responding with equal grace, reserving for him an entrance separate from other dignitaries as the anthem of the Republic of Sudan plays on sovereign soil for the last time.