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Putin: Moscow Still Against Kosovo Independence

Russian President Vladimir Putin has assured Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica that Moscow's position on Serbia's breakaway Kosovo province has not changed.

Mr. Putin told Mr. Kostunica Saturday that Russia disagreed with other members of the Group of Eight industrialized nations on the future status of Kosovo. But he added that after a discussion at this week's summit in Germany, the others have a better understanding of Russia's position.

The two leaders met at the Economic Forum in St. Petersburg.

Mr. Kostunica said Russia's support of Serbia has historic significance. He said his country has completely and definitely rejected United Nations mediator Martti Ahtisaari's plan, which opens the door for Kosovo's independence. He said that no country can be punished by taking away 15 percent of its territory.

Kosovo has been under the U.N. administration since 1999 after NATO airs strikes halted Belgrade's crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists.

Albanian leadership is asking for quick passage of a new U.N. Security Council Resolution granting Kosovo supervised independence.

Ethnic Albanians, who make up about 90 percent of the province's population, are getting increasingly impatient with delays to the final decision. Many want to declare independence without the West's approval.

President Bush, today in Rome, called for a quick action giving Kosovo independence.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.