Russian, Belarusian presidents discuss long-planned union

Russian President &to=' target=_blank>Vladimir Putin and his Belarusian counterpart, Alexander Lukashenko, on Tuesday discussed ways add substance to the ambitious union agreement between their two former Soviet republics.

The 1996 agreement envisaged close political, economic and military ties, but the two nation's movement toward a declared a goal of creating a single country has been stalled.

Lukashenko has rejected Putin's integration proposal floated in 2002 under which Belarus would essentially be absorbed by Russia. And a plan to introduce the Russian ruble as the two nations' single currency starting in January 2005 has run into problems amid Belarusian officials' concerns that it would give Russia too much leverage over the nation of 10 million.

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