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    NATO refused on Tuesday to rule out the prospect of Georgia joining the military alliance in the future, despite recent fighting in its breakaway region of South Ossetia.

    BRUSSELS, August 12 (RIA Novosti) - NATO refused on Tuesday to rule out the prospect of Georgia joining the military alliance in the future, despite recent fighting in its breakaway region of South Ossetia.

    "I think that the Bucharest communique stands. The allies have said in Bucharest that one day Georgia will join NATO," Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told a news conference following NATO talks with Georgia in Brussels.

    At a summit in Bucharest in April, NATO members decided against offering Ukraine or Georgia a Membership Action Plan but promised to review the decision in December. The ex-Soviet republics had received strong U.S. backing for their bids.

    He said that the 26 NATO ambassadors at the meeting with the Georgian envoy to the alliance, Revaz Beshidze, expressed their support for Georgia's recent measures and "condemned and deplored [Russia's] excessive, disproportionate use of force."

    "Georgia is a respected partner and friend and one day Georgia will join NATO," Scheffer said.

    Georgian forces launched an attack on the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali last Friday. Russia has said that around 1,600 people died in the Georgian assault. Some 34,000 people also fled the fighting into Russia. Most residents of South Ossetia have Russian citizenship.

    During the subsequent Russian military operation to force Georgian troops out of the de facto independent republic and to reinforce its peacekeepers in the region, Moscow sent some 10,000 servicemen and several hundred armored vehicles into South Ossetia. Russian jets also carried out strikes against Georgian military infrastructure. Western and Georgian media reported that Russia had bombed civilian targets in Georgia, including in the city of Gori, but Moscow denied the allegations.

    Scheffer said NATO had no plans or ambitions to play a role in the resolution of the conflict between Georgia and South Ossetia.

    The secretary general said a Russia-NATO session on the situation in South Ossetia would be held in the nearest future, but it should be thoroughly prepared.

    Russian President Dmitry Medvedev ordered an end to the "peace enforcement" operation in Georgia earlier in the day, after five days of fighting that followed Georgia's military offensive to seize South Ossetia. He said, however, that Georgia had to pull its troops back before a peace settlement could be reached.

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