The U.S. State Department made it clear that it wants the independence vote in south Sudan set for January 2011 to be held as scheduled, despite talks by northern officials about a postponement and a fresh push by Egypt for the same. The referendums in southern Sudan and the oil-rich region of Abyei were a centerpiece of an accord in 2005 that ended two decades of civil war, in which about two million people died. Preparations for the key votes have proceeded haltingly amid political and logistical obstacles. Southerners have accused the northerners of stalling and warned of violence if the referendum is delayed. The U.S. special envoy to Sudan, Scott Gration, told reporters: “We are committed to on-time referenda in both Abyei and in southern Sudan. And it is really up to the parties to take the decisions and to take the actions that will make this a reality.” The Sudanese government and leaders of former rebel groups have yet to agree on contentious post-referendum arrangements for south Sudan, including issues of border demarcation, wealth sharing, water and national debt.