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    U.S. military aircraft bring 800 Georgian troops home from Iraq

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    U.S. military aircraft have flown 800 Georgian troops and a number of armored vehicles back home from Iraq amid an armed conflict in breakaway South Ossetia, a senior Russian military official said on Monday.

    MOSCOW, August 11 (RIA Novosti) - U.S. military aircraft have flown 800 Georgian troops and a number of armored vehicles back home from Iraq amid an armed conflict in breakaway South Ossetia, a senior Russian military official said on Monday.

    NBC reported on Monday that U.S. military transport planes had started to bring all the Georgian troops deployed in Iraq back home.

    "U.S. aircraft have made eight flights to bring Georgian troops home from Iraq," Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn said.

    Nogovitsyn pledged to take adequate measures. "We are ready to increase our forces in view of the relocation of Georgian troops." He said following Russia's deployment of 58th Army units to supplement its peacekeepers in South Ossetia, Georgian and Russian troop numbers in the conflict zone were around the same.

    Georgian troops launched a major ground and air offensive on South Ossetia on Friday, which according to Russia left around 2,000 civilians dead. The attacks prompted Russia to send in tanks and hundreds of troops. The capital of South Ossetia, Tskhinvali, has been virtually destroyed in the violence.

    Until Georgia made the decision to pull out its troops from Iraq, the country had 2,000 service personnel deployed in the Middle East region, the third largest contingent after the U.S. and Britain.

    Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said the U.S., which has backed Georgia's NATO membership aspirations, is hampering the peacekeeping operation in South Ossetia by flying the Georgian troops from Iraq to Georgia.

    "It's a pity that some of our partners instead of helping are trying to get in the way, I mean the United States using its military transport aircraft to relocate Georgia's military contingent from Iraq virtually into the conflict zone, among other things," Putin said during a government meeting.

    Putin said pulling Georgian troops out of Iraq would not change the situation, but called the move a "step back from a settlement."

    He said he was astonished by the double standards and cynicism of U.S. foreign policy and accused U.S. diplomats of retaining a Cold-War mentality, labeling the aggressor the victim while the real victim ends up being blamed as the aggressor.

    "Of course, it was right that Saddam Hussein was hanged for butchering several Shia villages, while the current Georgian rulers, who wiped out ten Ossetian villages in no time and burnt people alive in their homes, must be protected," Putin said sarcastically.

    A top Russian diplomat accused foreign media on Sunday of showing pro-Georgian bias in their coverage of the ongoing conflict.

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