A leading official of south Sudan's main ruling party has warned that the independence referendum scheduled for January could face a delay unless the country's election commission quickly resolves an internal dispute.
The commission was authorised by Sudan's parliament last year, and should have been formed early in 2010. But its members were only appointed in June, and commissioners still cannot agree on who should be secretary-general.
Pagan Amum, the secretary-general of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), warned that the referendum would be "killed off" unless the commission resolves that question "within the next two weeks".
"It would be very dangerous to shift that day because the hopes, expectations and aspirations of the people of southern Sudan, as individuals who will be determining their future, is so pinned on that day," Amum said.
"The majority of Sudanese will vote for secession if they have the chance to vote."
Decisions 'need to be made'
The SPLM's military also accused the government in Khartoum of transferring aid to rebel groups in the south. James Hoh, the SPLM's army chief, accused the Sudanese government of trying to push the south "in[to] turmoil".
The referendum is a key part of the 2005 peace deal that ended a decades-long civil war between north and south Sudan. Southerners are widely expected to vote for independence.
David Gressly, the top United Nations official in southern Sudan, said the commission needs to quickly get to work.
"We are not yet to the point where it [the referendum] can't occur on time," Gressly told the Associated Press news agency. "But some practical decisions will need to be made quickly."
Residents in the Abyei region, which sits on the likely border between north and south Sudan, will vote on independence in a separate referendum. But the commission to oversee that vote has not even been formed yet.
A coalition of NGOs warned last month that the Sudanese government and the UN are "alarmingly" unprepared for the referendum.