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    SAAKASHVILI SAYS HIS FIRST FOREIGN VISIT AS GEORGIAN PRESIDENT WILL BE TO RUSSIA

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    MOSCOW, JANUARY 18 (RIA NOVOSTI) - In an interview for the Russian television network NTV Sunday, Mikhail Saakashvili said that his first foreign visit as Georgian President would be to Russia. He pointed out that from an official's perspective, he saw Russia as a superpower to be reckoned with whereas to him as a person, Russia was a huge cultural landscape, closely knit with Georgia. "I was brought up on Russian culture, my favorite bards were [Bulat] Okudzhava and [Vladimir] Vysotsky," he said.

    Saakashvili assured that he was not going to reorient his country's political course toward the United States. In his words, the withdrawal of Russian military bases from Georgian territory does not mean they will be replaced with American ones. "Our concern is to have the Georgians guard their territory by themselves," he explained.

    The U.S. buys helicopters and Kalashnikov guns for Georgia and assists it in officer training, Saakashvili said. "We would be glad to have such cooperation with Russia, too," he indicated.

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