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The Democratic Party of former guerilla commander Hashim Thaci
The Democratic Party of former guerilla commander Hashim Thaci is well ahead at the parliamentary elections in Serbia's predominantly Albanian province of Kosovo, regional monitors said on Sunday.

Democracy in Action, a coalition of 11 non-governmental organizations from Kosovo, monitored the province's parliamentary elections Saturday, amid the breakaway region's drive for officially recognized statehood.

As of 8:00 a.m. local time (7:00 a.m. GMT), the Democratic Party, whose leader Thaci has pledged to lead the breakaway province to independence, won 34% of electors' votes while the rival Democratic League of Kosovo trailed in the second place with 22%. The New Kosovo Alliance of tycoon Behgjet Pacolli was third-placed, the Democracy in Action coalition said.

About 1.5 million legible voters cast their ballots on November 17 to elect Kosovo's 120-seat parliament for a three-year term, with 100 members elected by proportional representation, and 20 members representing national minorities.

The Serb National Council for northern Kosovo earlier called on all ethnic Serbs to boycott the elections, saying taking part would be "playing into the hands of Albanian separatists."

Kosovo has been a UN protectorate since NATO's 78-day bombing campaign against the former Yugoslavia ended a conflict between Serb forces and Muslim Albanian separatists in 1999.

Serbian officials and representatives of Kosovo have failed so far to reach a compromise on Kosovo's status.

The U.S. and some EU states are pushing for Kosovar independence, while Russia has strongly opposed sovereignty for the province, saying it would set a dangerous precedent, including for post-Soviet states.

December 10 has been set as the deadline for the Contact group negotiating a solution on the predominantly Albanian province's status - Russia, the United States, and the four largest European Union members - to submit a report to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Belgrade and Russia have spoken out against strict timeframes in the long-running dispute, but Kosovo Albanian leaders have said they will declare independence unilaterally if no deal is reached by the December 10 deadline.


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