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Kosovo leader says election valid despite violence

PRISTINA, Kosovo — Authorities may not tally local election results in northern Kosovo after hard-line Serbs allegedly attacked a polling station there, but the country’s prime minister insisted Monday the vote was valid and should stand.

It was the first time voters in all of Kosovo were choosing local leaders since the country seceded from Serbia in 2008. The vote was seen as a key test of whether ethnic Serb-majority areas in the north who have rejected the ethnic Albanian government’s authority would cast ballots. Hard-liners are suspected of smashing up a polling station to intimidate fellow Serbs from voting.

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Prime Minister Hashim Thaci maintained the Serb-majority areas now have ‘‘legitimate representatives,’’ even though election authorities have not yet decided whether to count the results. Enough ethnic Serbs turned out there and elsewhere around the country to give them a voice, he said.

Thaci said voter turnout in the Serb-run north was 22 percent before the attack.

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Serbs in the rest of Kosovo marked a record turnout in some areas with over 50 percent of voters casting ballots.

Participation of minority Serbs in the elections was a key element in an EU-brokered deal between Serbia and Kosovo that seeks to settle longstanding disputes. Serbia does not recognize Kosovo’s independence.

In Belgrade, Serbia’s minister for Kosovo said the government is waiting to hear from election officials before taking a stance.

Associated Press

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