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    Russia's Lavrov calls NATO drills in Georgia 'dangerous'

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    Russia's foreign minister reiterated on Monday the country's opposition to upcoming NATO-led military exercises in Georgia, saying they could encourage the Georgian regime to carry out new attacks.

    MOSCOW, April 27 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's foreign minister reiterated on Monday the country's opposition to upcoming NATO-led military exercises in Georgia, saying they could encourage the Georgian regime to carry out new attacks.

    Russia has refused all contact with President Mikheil Saakashvili's regime in Georgia since the country's attack on South Ossetia last year, and the ensuing Russia-Georgia war. The NATO-led exercises are scheduled for May 6 through June 1.

    "We are convinced, and are telling all our partners, that it is dangerous to appease the current Georgian regime, which has in no way abandoned its attempts to solve its problems via militarization and the use of force," Sergei Lavrov told reporters after talks with his Chinese counterpart, Yang Jiechi.

    "We believe that these exercises are harmful under the present conditions," he said.

    Lavrov also said Russia will not send observers to monitor the exercises.

    NATO says the Cooperative Longbow 09/Cooperative Lancer 09 command-and-staff exercises will not feature light or heavy weaponry. In response to Russian criticism, the Western military alliance has said the drills were planned before the Russia-Georgia conflict, and that the exercise is open to all ally states, including Russia.

    A source at the NATO headquarters in Brussels told RIA Novosti that Russia is overreacting. He said the drills are "not the end of the world" and that "no one is being forced" to participate.

    Abkhazia urged NATO member states earlier on Monday not to go ahead with the exercises, and expressed deep concern over the plans.

    The former Georgian republic's Foreign Ministry said it viewed the drills as "a politically motivated act" that could destabilize the situation in the region.

    Abkhazia said last Friday it could hold its own military exercises in response to the drills.

    The drills are aimed at improving interoperability between NATO and partner countries, within the framework of Partnership for Peace, Mediterranean Dialogue and Istanbul Cooperation Initiative programs.

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