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NEITHER SIDE WILL BUDGE ON KURIL ISLAND CLAIMS

Had expectations been greater, Japanese officials might have been angrier that President Boris Yeltsin of Russia decided at the last minute to cancel his visit.

But neither Japan nor Russia appears willing to budge on claims to several of the remote Kuril Islands, and officials Thursday tried to put the best face on what had become a losing proposition for both sides.Yeltsin decided Wednesday to cancel his trip to Japan. He told his Cabinet Thursday that it was because a planned natural gas deal was not ready, the ITAR-Tass news agency said, but he had been under increasing public pressure not to give up the islands.