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    GEORGIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY SAYS IT WILL KEEP TROOPS BY ADZHARIAN BORDER

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    TBILISI, May 3 (RIA Novosti) - The Defense Ministry of Georgia is going to keep units of its 11th motorized brigade near the administrative border with Adzharia amid rising tensions between the autonomy's authorities and the central government, Defense Minister Gela Bezhuashvili told a news conference Monday.

    Initially, "it was planned that all of the 11th brigade's units would return to their base upon completion of their exercise in Poti [a Black Sea port], " Bezhuashvili said. But the ongoing standoff between the Adzharian authorities and Georgia's central government has made the command change the plan and leave some of the brigade units behind to maintain security.

    Tbilisi has no intention to settle the conflict in Adzharia by using military force, the Georgian Defense Minister assured.

    In reply to a reporter's question as to whether Georgia's National Security Council was planning to take any radical measures to resolve the crisis, Bezhuashvili said that the use of military force against Adzharia was out of the question as the people living in the autonomy are Georgian nationals.

    According to the Novosti-Georgia news agency, Bezhuashvili described as "totally unacceptable and paranoid" Adzharian leader Aslan Abashidze's order to blow up bridges on the administrative border dividing Adzharia from the rest of Georgia. "With his actions, Abashidze has put himself in opposition to the population of both the autonomy and the whole of Georgia," the minister said.

    The 11th motorized brigade, along with other units of the Georgian army, has been taking part in a large-scale exercise, "Dioscuria 2004," in the vicinity of Poti.

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