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Europe

EU Dashes Independence Hopes in Kosovo

Brussels makes it clear that Kosovo will not gain independence from Yugoslavia.

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Ibrahim Rugova: Victorious in the elections, but still far from achieving his dream.

European Union foreign ministers on Monday rejected a call from Kosovo's moderate ethnic Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova for independence. Rugova has claimed victory after Saturday's election, saying he got 70 percent of the vote.

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) will announce the preliminary results late Monday. Unofficial data show Rugova's Democratic League of Kosovo won 44.7 percent, well ahead of the Democratic Party of Kosovo led by Hashim Thaqi with 23.7 percent.

Independence Not an Issue

The EU ministers conceded that the status of the Yugoslav province must be resolved. But Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner stressed that an independent Kosovo was not the issue of Saturday's elections. "This is what we all think," she said as she arrived for a monthly meeting of EU ministers in Brussels.

"He (Rugova) knows very well that the international community is against independence, but they maintain this idea," Ferrero-Waldner said. "We have to sit down and really consider what could be a solution, but I am not in favor of independence as such."

Kosovo Should Stick to UN Resolution

Javier Solana

Solana

Javier Solana (photo), EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, said the elections were "a decisive step in the development of democracy in Kosovo". The elected leaders face major responsibilities for the political, economic, social and cultural life.

"I call on these leaders to exercise their new authority with wisdom and responsibility and to adhere strictly to the constitutional framework and to UN Security Council Resolution," Solana said.

"It will take all their energy and creativity to ensure a prosperous and stable development of Kosovo which safeguards the interest of all communities." He added that the new leaders could count on the international community to support them in their efforts.

Peaceful Elections

A far as the voter turnout rate, some 63 percent of Kosovo's electorate cast their votes.The OSCE said the vote for a 120-seat assembly had been peaceful and orderly. German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer welcomed the peaceful elections as "a signal of peace and stability" for the entire Balkan region.

These sentiments were shared by the EU's Solana. "The peaceful and orderly conduct of the elections, as well as the high level of participation show the enormous progress achieved in Kosovo," he said.

The final election results are expected on November 24.

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