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South Ossetian Leader Says Won't Join Russia -- For Now

The separatist leader of the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia says the territory wants to join Russia but will not do so in he near future.

Leonid Tibilov, the de facto head of South Ossetia, said it is "no secret" the idea of joining Russia "exists among our people," but added there are "many concerns" and he will not now "try to implement" the idea.

Tibilov, speaking in Moscow one day after signing an "alliance and integration treaty" with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin, said South Ossetia will "make steps appropriate not only for [itself] but also for Russia."

South Ossetia declared independence from Georgia in 1990 and has run its own affairs since a 1991-1992 war with with the central government.

Russia recognized it as an independent nation after fighting a five-day war against Georgia, but few countries have followed suit.

Georgia considers South Ossetia to be occupied by Russia, which has troops in the region and enforces a border patrol.

Any move by Moscow to make South Ossetia a part of Russia would be vehemently opposed by Tbilisi and the West.

Based on reporting by TASS