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Russian and Belarusian Leaders Discuss Building Union State
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The presidents of Russia and Belarus discussed yesterday issues in building the long-planned union state between their countries and hailed the progress in the development of the union.


Russian President Vladimir Putin said he had a "detailed and frank discussion of a broad range of issues in the strengthening of the Russian-Belarusian integration" with his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko at the meeting of the Russia-Belarus Union Supreme State Council in St. Petersburg.


Leaders of Russia and Belarus agreed to build a union of their countries in 1997, which envisaged close political, economic and military ties.


A number of legal accords were signed at Tuesday's meeting, including agreements on union property, social and medical services and easing of travel.


The two leaders also ordered their governments to draft a program of joint actions in foreign policy for a new period.


"We confirmed the common wish for energetic progress in the union development," Putin was quoted by the Itar-Tass News Agency as saying after the meeting.


Lukashenko said the two countries signed agreements giving people of the two countries equal rights in taxation and public health services and similar issues in education had been solved earlier.


"The conclusion is simple: by adopting those decisions, we can definitely say now that Russians and Belarusians are not foreigners on the territory of either country, as they enjoy full freedom of travel," he said.


The Belarusian president said the two countries made the right choice when they formed a union 10 years ago. "There is no alternative to the union," he said.


(Xinhua News Agency January 25, 2006)


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