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    OSCE MISSION TO CONFIRM CLOSURE OF FORMER RUSSIAN BASE IN ABKHAZIA

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    OSLO, April 4, 2004. (RIA Novosti) - The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe will send a mission to Abkhazia, a breakaway region within the former Soviet republic of Georgia, to certify the closure of the Russian military base at Gudauti, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov told reporters during a stopover in Norway.

    Mr. Ivanov, who is on his way to the United States, told the media that only Russian peacekeepers are still deployed at the site of the base while all the other personnel and hardware have been pulled out. An OSCE delegation visited Gudauti some time earlier to make sure the base had been shut down. It could not formally confirm the fact to Georgia back then, however, as no officials of the Georgian Defense Ministry were present at the site, he explained.

    The forthcoming OSCE mission to Gudauti will be the final one, Mr. Ivanov said. Whether Georgian Defense Ministry officials should join in is to be decoded at negotiations between the governments of Georgia and Abkhazia, he added.

    Russia still has two active military bases in Georgia-in Batumi and Akhalkalaki. But these will remain beyond the scope of the OSCE delegation's upcoming inspection, Mr. Ivanov said.

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