Elections move Kosovo closer to independence

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The Independent Online

Some 1.3 million voters go to the polls today in Kosovo, in elections that are being hailed by observers as a step towards independence for the province.

Some 1.3 million voters go to the polls today in Kosovo, in elections that are being hailed by observers as a step towards independence for the province.

The major ethnic Albanian parties have made independence a priority. At his closing rally earlier this week, Ibrahim Rugova, President of Kosovo, said: "I hope to lead the independent Kosovo into the future, which will mean good things for our country."

Opinion polls say that his Democratic Alliance (DSK) and the Democratic Party of Hashim Thaci are posed to obtain the largest bulk of votes for the 120 seats in Kosovo parliament.

But none of them is expected to win an absolute majority, with a likely coalition partner being the Alliance for the Future of Kosova of the current Prime Minister, Ramush Haradinaj.

These are the second parliamentary elections in Kosovo in the five years since the province practically became a protectorate of the United Nations.

The arrival of the UN administration in 1999 accompanied by the dozens of thousands of Nato-led peacekeepers, marked the end of Belgrade's domination over Kosovo.

International talks on Kosovo's future are set for mid-2005.

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