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Russia: Putin Rejects Returning Islands To Japan

Tokyo, 4 September (RFE/RL) - Russian President Vladimir Putin has rejected a Japanese call for sovereignty over four disputed islands. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori today proposed that Japan's borders be expanded to include the islands, known as the southern Kuriles in Russia and Northern Territories in Japan. Putin, who is on a visit to Japan, said today the proposal was considered but "it does not correspond exactly with the Russian idea." Irek Murtazin, a spokesman for Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev, who is traveling in Putin's delegation, had this to say in a phone interview from Tokyo with an RFE/RL correspondent:

"Concerning the official talks, they are proceeding quite slowly. The Japanese are basically attempting to make demands on Russia which we can not fulfill today. Japan is making rather firm demands that a peaceful agreement can only be made after the handing over of the four (Kurile) islands to Japan."

The islands were occupied by Soviet troops in the final days of World War II. The dispute has blocked the path to a formal peace treaty ever since. The talks resume tomorrow.