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Prime Minister Taro Aso on Saturday underscored his determination to resolve a long-standing territorial dispute with Russia, calling on the government and the people to work toward that end at an annual rally calling for the return of four Russian-held islands off Hokkaido.

This year’s gathering on “Northern Territories Day” came amid fresh disputes over a new Russian rule requiring people to have disembarkation cards when entering the islands. It also took place ahead of plans for Aso to meet Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Feb. 18.

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