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    RUSSIA-GEORGIA "BIG TREATY" NEARLY READY FOR SIGNING

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    MOSCOW, January 21st, 2004 (RIA Novosti correspondent) - The "big treaty" between Russia and Georgia is nearly ready for signing, Georgian Ambassador to Russia Zurab Abashidze said at a press conference on Wednesday.

    "The work has been 90% accomplished, and there are only several issues to be co-ordinated," he said. According to his forecast, this agreement between the two countries can be signed in 2004.

    The ambassador stressed that Georgia "is looking forward to the moment when Russian-Georgian relations come back to normal." He recalled that the new Georgian leadership had repeatedly come out for a drastic improvement of bilateral relations.

    "We are happy that Moscow accepted these signals from Tbilisi. The two sides have shown willingness to improve the relations," said Abashidze.

    He added that the Georgian side had worked to spot its mistakes and reported about this to our Russian colleagues. We expect the same approach from Russia, he said.

    When asked to name the mistakes, Abashidze cited the solution to the Pankisi gorge problem. He also said that Georgia saw Russia's decision to introduce the visa regime as a mistake.

    The Pankisi gorge is situated near the Chechen sector of the Russian-Georgian border serves Chechen militants as a hideout, as the Russian side has numerously stated.

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