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    PUTIN REGARDS SAAKASHVILI'S STATEMENT AS POSITIVE SIGNAL

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    MOSCOW, February 11, 2004. (RIA Novosti). Vladimir Putin regards Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili's statement on Russian-Georgian relations as a positive signal.

    Moscow has paid attention to Mikhail Saakashvili's statements made in Georgia, abroad, and in the Moscow State Institute of International Relations yesterday, Vladimir Putin said opening the meeting with his Georgian counterpart.

    "This is a positive signal aimed at the revival of Russian-Georgian relations," Putin said.

    "We have a special feeling for Georgia and its people. We always meet Georgia half-way in almost all issues," the Russian President stressed.

    According to Mikhail Saakashvili, he has come to Moscow to make friends with Vladimir Putin.

    He believes that Russia is a great country. "Georgia is a small country and we have our interests and our pride but our history is associated with Russia," Saakashvili stressed.

    The Russian leader said that Russia and Georgia have much in common in spiritual and historic spheres.

    "Georgia is our important partner. I hope Russia is important for Georgia, too," Vladimir Putin said.

    In his words, Russia is Georgia's main trade and economic partner. In 2004 our trade turnover has grown by over 37 per cent against the same period in 2003, the Russian President added.

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