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Russian defense minister warns of another, worse Georgian war

RIA Novosti

18/11/2008 18:56 ANKARA, November 18 (RIA Novosti) - The Russian defense minister warned on Tuesday that Georgia's military buildup and drive to join NATO could cause a conflict worse than the five-day war over South Ossetia in August.

Russia and Georgia fought a brief war in August after Tbilisi launched an offensive in an attempt to regain control of breakaway South Ossetia. Moscow subsequently recognized the republic and Abkhazia, another separatist Georgian region, as independent states.

"We are worried by the military buildup being conducted by the Georgian authorities and the country's drive toward NATO. These moves could cause a conflict worse than the August events," Anatoly Serdyukov said after talks in Ankara with Turkish Defense Minister Mehmet Gonul.

At a summit in April, NATO member states decided to put off a decision on whether to grant Membership Action Plans to Georgia and Ukraine until December. Their bids have received strong U.S. backing, but ran into opposition from some European alliance members, including Germany and France, who said that opening the path to membership for the two former Soviet republics would unnecessarily antagonize Moscow.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev told journalists on Tuesday that Russia would have no contacts with Georgia's current government but expressed the hope that despite the August armed conflict relations between Russian and Georgian people would not deteriorate.

"We will have no contacts at all with the current regime and we view their policies as criminal," Medvedev said.

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