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Serbia Bars US, British Monitors from Observing Presidential Vote

Serbia's electoral commission has voted to bar U.S. and British observers from monitoring the country's presidential election later this month.

Serbian officials Friday said the commission voted to allow 26 monitors from Russia and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to observe the January 20 vote. But a vote to approve monitoring by representatives of the U.S. and British embassies in Belgrade fell short of the required majority.

The party of Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica objected to observers from the two countries because of their support for the independence demands of the ethnic Albanian majority in Serbia's breakaway Kosovo province.

A government minister, Milan Markovic, criticized the commission's decision. He said no one should be barred from monitoring the vote because the elections will be open and democratic.

Current President Boris Tadic of the Democratic Party and ultranationalist Radical Party leader Tomislav Nikolic head a list of candidates in the first round vote.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.