MOSCOW (AP) _ Russia and Japan are likely to sign an agreement on fishing rights near the disputed Kuril Islands ``in a matter of days,'' Russian officials said Monday.

The two nations have been at odds since World War II, when Russia seized the Kuril Islands from Japan in the final days of the conflict. But with relations improving in recent years, they have worked out an agreement on Japanese fishing rights.

``The final technical stages are nearing their end, and as soon as they are over, the date will be set for the signing. It is a matter of days,'' Alexander Losyukov, a Russian Foreign Ministry official involved in the negotiations, told the ITAR-Tass news agency.

Russia and Japan have held 13 rounds of talks on fishing rights during the past three years. Last month, they finally worked out quotas and seasons for Japanese commercial fishing around the islands and agreed on procedures for Russia's control over the fishing.

In the past, Russian patrols have fired on Japanese fishermen who often enter the waters around the islands.