PRESIDENT PUTIN DOES NOT WANT FOREIGN TROOPS TO BE DEPLOYED IN GEORGIA INSTEAD OF RUSSIAN BASES

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MOSCOW, May 23 (RIA Novosti) - Russian President Vladimir Putin does not want troops of some third countries to be deployed in Georgia instead of Russian bases. "I do not want troops of third countries to be deployed in Georgia after our withdrawal. This would threaten our security and the Georgian partners understand it," Putin said commenting on the withdrawal of Russian bases from Georgia.

"Russian bases in Georgia [in Batumi and Akhalkalaki] are of no interest from the point of view of security. This is not my opinion but the opinion of the Russian General Staff," the President said.

"This is not good from the political point of view because it means that our neighbors do not want our presence in their country. But it would be worse if we violated this sovereign right," he added.

"Nothing requires the immediate or rapid withdrawal of our troops. The Russian side believes that the pressure of the Georgian side is unsubstantiated," Vladimir Putin stressed.

A delegation of the Russian Foreign Ministry headed by ambassador at large Igor Savolsky arrived in Tbilisi to negotiate on the terms of the withdrawal of Russian military bases from Georgia.

The payment of Georgia's compensations for the bases' withdrawal will not be on the agenda of the talks, Savolsky told journalists in Tbilisi's airport.

"We shall not discuss the compensations. In compliance with the Istanbul agreement, the sides decided to search for additional sources of financing. These sums will be insignificant as compared to the cost of the operation," he said.

The ambassador at large did not specify the site where the Russian bases will be deployed after the pullout from Georgia. According to him, Russia proposes to withdraw the bases within 2008.

"The bases may be partially deployed in Armenia and mostly in Russia," Savolsky added.

The Georgian parliament insists on the final withdrawal of the bases by January 1, 2008.

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