More than enough registered voters in Sudan will cross a key participation threshold, making valid the referendum to decide whether or not the nation splits into two, officials said Wednesday.

Officials from an election commission and the ruling southern Sudan party made statements affirming the 60 percent participation rate of southern Sudanese voters would be met by the Saturday cut-off point in the weeklong event.

 The final percentage for the referendum process will exceed 60 percent, Suad Ibrahim Eissa, member of the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission said in a statement.

The declarations mark a key step in the process which is expected to result in the northern and southern parts of the nation - wracked by decades of civil war - to split into states consisting mostly of Sunni Muslims in the north and a predominantly animist and Christian southern state.

With 3,932,588 registered voters, the 60 percent mark is 2,359,553.

Failing to reach the threshold would have required a repeat vote within 60 days. The referendum was established by a peace agreement reached in 2005 with representatives from the north and south.

The United Nations said Wednesday that preliminary results for the vote are expected on February 2.

The mark that would make the referendum be considered valid is passed, said Anne Itto, Secretary-General for the Sudan People's Liberation Movement, the South's ruling party.

She said her statement was based on polling figures and reports gathered from some SPLM teams in 10 states in southern Sudan. There are more than 3,000 voting centers throughout the country. Voting is also taking place in eight foreign nations where the Sudanese diaspora lives, the SSRC said.

Itto said the data collected by the SLPM gave a rough but convincing picture of the turnout in voting centers located in the North, the diaspora and in remote centers.

She said the statement should not be misunderstood as a declaration or judgment on the referendum but as an encouragement and a reward to the people of Southern Sudan.

U.S. officials said on Tuesday that they had witnessed a high turnout, but did not address the legal threshold issue.

Sudan had been embroiled in a civil war for the two decades prior to the 2005 agreement. Around 2 million people had been killed due to the conflicts, according to Johnnie Carson, the U.S. State Department's Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of African Affairs.