Sudan has become the first country to recognize the independence of South Sudan, ahead of the south's secession at midnight Friday, Reuters's Andrew Heavens and Alexander Dziadosz report. "The Republic of Sudan declares its recognition of South Sudan as an independent and sovereign state as of July 9th 2011," Khartoum's Minister for Presidential Affairs Bakri Hassan Saleh said. Sudan went through decades of civil war before a 2005 peace deal.

While many celebrated in the south, northerners are nervous about the division. South Sudan is underdeveloped, but holds 75 percent of the country's oil reserves. Secession will cost the north a third of its national revenues.