Rugova Claims Victory in Kosovo Poll; Kostunica Rejects Result

The Kosovo Democratic League led by moderate nationalist Ibrahim Rugova claimed victory in the province's first municipal elections since NATO's conflict with Yugoslavia over the territory. Hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians turned out to vote for 920 councilors in 30 municipalities. The Serb minority boycotted the election fearing it would strengthen demands for independence from Yugoslavia, Bloomberg reports. Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica said Belgrade would not recognize the result. ``It's very important to state that this election has taken place in a peaceful and democratic environment,'' Rugova said at a news conference in Kosovo's capital, Pristina. ``On preliminary returns, we won 60 percent throughout Kosovo.'' The vote was the first since last year's North Atlantic Treaty Organization bombing campaign to end Serb repression of Kosovo Albanians. It was the first election for a decade that the Albanians haven't boycotted, as they did under former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's rule. Rugova said the result was recognition of his party's stand against Yugoslav rule and called for the province's independence to be recognized, Agence France-Presse reported. Kostunica, though, said the vote was ``unacceptable'' and ``not based on the laws of Serbia.'' ``Yugoslavia cannot recognize the results of local elections and calls upon international bodies to look toward the full application of UN Security Resolution 1244,'' AFP quoted Kostunica as saying in a statement. The Security Council resolution recognizes Kosovo as an integral part of Yugoslavia.