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Kosovo to Repeat Vote in Serb-Populated Town

Kosovo police (KPS) secure the area in front of the ''Sveti Sava'' elementary school polling station in the northern part of the ethnically divided Kosovo town of Mitrovica, Nov. 3, 2013.
Election officials in Kosovo have ordered a repeat of voting in parts of the country's Serb-dominated north that were violently disrupted by Serbian hardliners opposed to the poll.

Sunday's election for local councilors and mayors was the first Belgrade-backed vote to be held in Kosovo since it seceded from Serbia in 2008.

Voting was halted in north Mitrovica after a group of masked men broke into several of the municipality's schools that were being used as polling stations, attacking staff and destroying voting materials. Officials say the results from the area will be annulled. No date has been set for the rerun.

Despite the problems, Kosovo's Prime Minister Hashim Thaci described the vote as a "new milestone" and an "important European test for Kosovo."

Thaci met Wednesday with his Serbian counterpart Ivica Dacic in Brussels to discuss the elections and how to move forward with a European Union-mediated accord on normalizing relations. Wednesday's meeting was chaired by E.U. policy chief Catherine Ashton.

In a statement, Ashton said that both sides will continue to implement the agreement at an accelerated pace but provided no details.

Serbia agreed in April to support the Kosovo election as part of the E.U.-mediated accord. The deal offered both sides the prospect of talks on joining the E.U. if the local vote went smoothly and drew a significant turnout of Serbs in northern Kosovo.

Both Serbia and Kosovo are seeking E.U. membership to boost their struggling economies.

Kosovo declared independence in 2008, a decade after it split from Serbia. The split triggered a bloody year-long conflict between Serbian and Albanian forces.

Many of the 40,000 ethnic Serbs living in northern Kosovo have refused to recognize the ethnic Albanian majority's 2008 secession from Serbia.

Serbia's government encouraged Kosovo's Serbs to vote in Sunday's election, marking a significant softening of its position toward the former Serbian territory, whose independence it still refuses to recognize.