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Georgia welcomes U.S. training

Shevardnadze: U.S. help would raise Georgia's 'level of defence capability'  

TBILISI, Georgia (CNN) -- The former Soviet republic of Georgia has welcomed the plan by the United States to send special forces to the area.

Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said the deployment would "secure the country's borders and fulfill a long-term objective."

But Russia has described the move as a potential risk in an already difficult situation in the Caucasus region.

Shevardnadze asked for assistance in battling Chechen guerrillas who have crossed the border into his country from the Russian region of Chechnya and in fighting what he says may be a growing number of al Qaeda-related fighters in Georgia

Will America's war on terrorism come to Georgia? CNN's Jill Dougherty reports (February 27)

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Shevardnadze said that the goal of the U.S. troops would be to "help Georgia raise the level of its defence capability."

He said that the announcement of possible U.S. help in "creating the army and army reform" had provoked "true hysteria, and it was hard for a self-respecting person to reconcile himself with this."

He added: "We have been working toward this for eight years. Step by step we have been trying, against the background of great American assistance, to establish factors of time and trust.

"Without trust, it is impossible to cooperate in the military sphere."

Up to 200 U.S. troops could be involved in the plan to help train and equip Georgia's military against terrorism threats.

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told ORT television on Thursday: "We think it [a U.S. presence] could further aggravate the situation in the region, which is difficult as it is."

Ivanov told his U.S. counterpart Colin Powell on Wednesday that Washington should "take into account" Russia's "well-founded concerns that the direct involvement of American troops in anti-terrorist activities on Georgian territory could further complicate the situation in the region."

The U.S. has compared its assistance in Georgia to the aid given in the Philippines, where more than 600 U.S. troops are providing training and logistical support to Philippine government forces battling Abu Sayyaf, a Muslim rebel group.


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