Kosovo to be Independent within weeks?
Ex-Kosovo fighter claims victory
Hashim Thaci is impatient to declare independence from Serbia
Former guerrilla leader Hashim Thaci has claimed victory in Kosovo's parliamentary election, though official results are yet to be confirmed.
Mr Thaci said it was "a historic day for Kosovo". He has promised to deliver independence for the Serbian province within weeks.
Earlier, independent monitors said Mr Thaci's Democratic Party was well ahead, mid-way through the count.
But correspondents say a boycott by Kosovan Serbs may undermine the result.
The Democratic Party is one of several backing independence for the Serbian province.
Coalition talks loom
"Today Kosovan citizens sent a message to the world, that we are a democratic society, that we are ready to take our country towards the European Union," Mr Thaci told cheering supporters on Saturday night.
He has promised to declare independence immediately after 10 December, the deadline set by the UN for the conclusion of talks on the future status for the province.
His Democratic Party had 35% of the vote, with more than half of ballots counted, independent observers said.
That puts Mr Thaci, a former leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army, in pole position to be prime minister, though it is likely he would have to form a coalition government
The Democratic League of Kosovo, led by President Fatmir Sejdiu, was trailing in second place with 22% of the vote, election monitors said.
Official final results, however, may take several days to come through.
According to election officials turnout was around 45%, the lowest since the Nato-led intervention in 1999.
The electorate was voting in parliamentary, local and mayoral elections.
One hundred of the 120 seats in the provincial assembly were up for direct election, with the rest reserved for Serbs and other minorities.
Turnout was low, while many Serbs boycotted the vote
Kosovo is formally part of Serbia but has been run by the UN since 1999.
Ethnic Albanians, backed by the US and others, want independence but Serbia, supported by Russia, is against it.
The BBC's Nick Hawton in Pristina, the Kosovan capital, says it appears that a large number of Serbs boycotted the ballot.
The Belgrade government had called on Serbs not to vote so as to avoid legitimising a government that may soon decide to break away from Serbia.
Rade Negojevic, a spokesman for the Serbian national council, claimed that only three Serbs voted in northern Kosovo.
However the Kosovo head of the European security group, the OSCE, Tim Guldimann, said there were "no irregularities" in polling and that the vote could be considered a success.