A leading U.S. senator says Sudanese leaders have assured him that they are committed to holding a referendum on southern independence on time.
Sen. John Kerry says he met with senior Sudanese officials in the north and south during a three-day visit to Africa's largest country.
He says Sudan's leaders "are absolutely committed" to making the Jan. 9 referendum take place as planned.
The vote will decide whether the south will split from the north and become an independent state.
Kerry told reporters Sunday the U.S. is committed to playing a "positive role" in ensuring a peaceful outcome to the vote.
The referendum is part of a 2005 peace agreement that ended a 21-year civil war between the mostly Muslim north and predominantly animist and Christian south.