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Serbians Vote in Referendum on New Constitution


Serbians complete two days of voting Sunday in a national referendum on the country's new proposed constitution that declares Kosovo province "an integral part of Serbia."

Referendum officials say turnout was low Saturday, with about 18 percent of the nearly 7 million eligible voters casting ballots across Serbia. More than half of eligible voters in the former Yugoslav republic must approve the referendum for it to pass.

The turnout in Kosovo was reported to be 35 percent. Kosovo's majority ethnic Albanians, who are demanding independence from Serbia, were not allowed to vote.

Pro-Western Serbian President Boris Tadic says the proposed constitution marks an end to the era of late leader Slobodan Milosevic. He led the former Yugoslavia through the brutal Balkan Wars of the 1990s.

Representatives of Serbia and Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority have been engaged in U.N.-mediated talks on the future of the province since February, but little progress had been made. The ethnic Albanians comprise about 90 percent of Kosovo's population.

Kosovo has been under U.N. administration since 1999 when NATO airstrikes halted Serbia's crackdown on ethnic Albanian civilians.

Serbia had to draft a new constitution after former partner Montenegro declared independence from Belgrade in June.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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