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Russia Plays Down Base Dispute With Georgia

11 March 2005 -- Russia is playing down a dispute with Georgia over two Russian military bases in Georgia.

Yesterday, Georgia's parliament passed a resolution saying that unless a timetable for Russia's withdrawal is agreed by 15 May, the government should demand Russia's exit from the bases at Batumi and Akhalkalaki by 1 January 2006. The resolution has no legal force.

Russia's Defense Ministry criticized the resolution as "counterproductive."

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov today said that Moscow and Tbilisi have agreed to intensify negotiations on the withdrawal over the next two months.

In 1999, Russia pledged to withdraw from four Soviet-era bases in Georgia. So far, it has withdrawn from two.

A Russian defense official yesterday said that the last withdrawal could take up to "three to four" more years.


Copyright (c) 2005. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org

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