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    RUSSIA READY FOR ACTIVE PARTICIPATION IN ADZHARIAN SETTLEMENT

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    MOSCOW, March 17, 2004. (RIA Novosti). Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Georgian National Security Council Secretary Vano Merabishvili agreed to boost Russia's role in Adzharian settlement, Merabishvili told journalists following the meeting in Moscow.

    "I expected no practical decisions to be taken at this meeting. We met each other and outlined cooperation prospects," the Georgian National Security Council Secretary noted.

    According to him, at issue was Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov's trip to Adzharia.

    "We believe that this trip can play a positive role. The situation will clear up in several hours, after Yuri Luzhkov's meeting with Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili and talks between the Georgian Security Minister, Parliamentary Speaker and Adzharian leader Aslan Abashidze," Vano Merabishvili said.

    The Georgian National Security Council Secretary sharply criticized the position of the Adzharian authorities.

    "A feudal principality cannot be preserved on the Georgian-Turkish border in the 21st century. No state, first of all, Russia, cannot back Aslan Abashidze's regime with the central authorities having no control of the port and customs. Adzharia has become a black hole of Georgian economy," Merabishvili said.

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