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Last Updated: Sunday, 29 October 2006, 08:40 GMT
Serbs voting on new constitution
Billboard reading "Yes" in favour of the new Serbian constitution
All the main parties are backing the "Yes" campaign
A second and final day of voting is under way in Serbia in a referendum on a new constitution stating that Kosovo is an integral part of the country.

After the first day of voting officials said turnout was just over 15%.

More than half of all registered voters must approve the draft for it to come into force. It is supported by Serbia's main political parties.

The ballot is being held even though Kosovo has been under UN control since the end of conflict in 1999.

If accepted, it would be Serbia's first constitution following the break-up of Yugoslavia.

The draft pre-empts UN-backed talks on the status of Kosovo, which are meant to draft a settlement by the year-end.

'European standards'

Serbia became an independent country earlier this year when its union with neighbouring Montenegro was formally dissolved.

No-one in Kosovo is paying any attention to the referendum
Azem Vllasi, lawyer

About 6.5 million people are entitled to vote in the national referendum. The referendum is being held over two days in an effort to attract as many voters as possible.

The draft constitution has already received the backing of the Serbian parliament.

Among its 200 articles are guarantees for minority and human rights and the granting of a form of self-rule for the province of Vojvodina.

It also calls for the end of the death penalty - and a ban on human cloning.

"It is a new beginning in the sense that in article one it states that Serbia is a state which is based on European standards and values," senior government adviser Vadetta Yankovic said.

"[This] is an expression of our commitment to the European Union and our hope to join it in the foreseeable future," he added.

'Integral part'

But the most controversial aspect of the draft constitution is the claim that the province of Kosovo remains an integral part of Serbia, says the BBC's Nick Hawton in Belgrade.

Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica on a visit to Kosovo, June 2006
Vojislav Kostunica stresses the historic Serbian presence in Kosovo

In international law, Kosovo remains a province of Serbia, even though it is under UN administration.

In the run-up to the referendum, Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica and Patriarch Pavle, head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, jointly appealed to the voters to support the new charter.

"The constitution completes Serbia's statehood and reaffirms that Kosovo is its integral part not only historically but also legally," Mr Kostunica said as he cast his vote in the capital, Belgrade.

Kosovo Albanians, who make up around 90% of the province's two million population, will not be able to vote as they have not been included on voters lists after boycotting Serbian elections since 1990.

"No-one in Kosovo is paying any attention to the referendum," ethnic Albanian lawyer Azem Vllasi told AFP news agency.

"Moreover, its outcome cannot in any way prejudice a solution to the final status of Kosovo," he said.




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Political leaders cast their votes



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