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German, Russian Leaders Discuss Energy


German Chancellor Angela Merkel held talks with her Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in southern Russia in a cordial atmosphere, yet with evidence of strain. Energy security was chief on the agenda of the talks, as Bill Gasperini reports from Moscow.

Chancellor Merkel met with President Putin for several hours at his vacation residence near the southern Russian city of Sochi.

Afterward President Putin praised what he called the positive relations between Germany and Russia.

The Russian leader says he and Chancellor Merkel discussed key issues including energy security, efforts to reduce the number of weapons of mass destruction, and the fight against international terrorism.

But the recent halt to the flow of Russian oil to Germany and other western countries overshadowed the meeting.

Russia cut its oil exports due to a price dispute with neighboring Belarus, an action Chancellor Merkel called "unacceptable". Germany, Poland and several other nations experienced shortfalls in oil supplies until Russia reached a new agreement with Belarus two days later.

After the meeting Ms. Merkel said "tensions over energy" should be avoided in the future, adding that this can be accomplished by signing a long-delayed partnership agreement with Russia. She said she hopes to reach such a comprehensive agreement with Russia soon.

The German Chancellor currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Union as well as the G-8 group of major industrialized nations, and has made the partnership issue a priority. But energy is a big part of such a deal, and Russia has resisted E.U. calls to open its oil and gas pipeline network to foreign competition.

Mr. Putin insists that Russia's vast energy reserves and distribution network are "strategic resources", which restricts foreign investment to a large degree.

Energy was not the only issue on the agenda for the Sochi meeting.

Mr. Putin referred to Sunday's election in Serbia and reiterated Russia's opposition to possible independence for the region of Kosovo, saying a resolution there "cannot be imposed" from the outside.

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