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Ms. Frazer and southern Sudanese officials say the north is holding on to Abyei as a bargaining chip for the negotiations on post-referendum issues.

Congress has linked removing Sudan from the terror list to progress in the western province of Darfur, where government-backed militias reportedly are involved in atrocities.

Ms. Frazer said taking Sudan off the list should be a technical decision. U.S. agencies, including the CIA, have concluded in recent assessments that Sudan is not sponsoring terror.

“If that is the case, they shouldn’t be on the list,” she said. “It is problematic to use that as a leverage against them on other issues.”

Southern Sudanese officials expect momentum in post-referendum talks to pick up even as votes are being counted and verified.

“I think the process will pick up now because there are no miracles which will happen to retain the unity of the country,” said Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth, head of mission of the Government of Southern Sudan in the U.S.

“The north has started to realize this reality,” he added.

Southern officials accuse their northern counterparts of dragging their feet on resolving post-referendum issues. Northern officials say they are focused on wrapping up the referendum.

“Most of these [post-referendum] issues will come up after the results. These challenges are on the table. Right now, people are busy celebrating and planning their future,” Mr. Mohamed said.

Both sides acknowledged that their fates are intertwined.

“The north needs us, and we need the north,” Mr. Gatkuoth said.

One example of this interdependence is oil.

While the south is the oil-producing half of Sudan, all the refineries are located in the north.

Among the many challenges is border security. Eighty percent of the border already has been defined, and Britain is helping demarcate the area with the help of colonial-era maps.

Northern officials are confident that all post-referendum issues, including Abyei, will be resolved, allowing for a peaceful split of their country.

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