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    CIS military official dismisses fears over NATO drills in Georgia

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    The secretary of the Council of Defense Ministers of the post-Soviet Commonwealth of Independent States said on Saturday he saw no reason for uneasiness over NATO's upcoming exercises in Georgia.

    MOSCOW, April 18 (RIA Novosti) - The secretary of the Council of Defense Ministers of the post-Soviet Commonwealth of Independent States said on Saturday he saw no reason for uneasiness over NATO's upcoming exercises in Georgia.

    The Cooperative Longbow 09/Cooperative Lancer 09 command-and-staff exercise, led by the Western military bloc, will be held from May 6 through June 1 in Georgia, and will not feature light or heavy weaponry.

    "These are not maneuvers, nothing terrible will happen. These will be procedural drills, procedural exercises," Lt. Gen. Alexander Sinaisky said on Ekho Moskvy radio. "In a word, this is political demarche on the part of NATO."

    "Notwithstanding the negative perception of Russia, it will take place, and it is necessary to calmly deal with it," he added, noting that the exercises were planned before the August 2008 conflict between Russia and Georgia over South Ossetia.

    President Dmitry Medvedev warned on Friday that Russia "will be closely watching" the drills and will "if necessary, make appropriate decisions."

    "Such decisions are disappointing and do nothing to help restore full-level contacts between the Russian Federation and NATO," Medvedev said of NATO's determination to go ahead with the exercises.

    The president of Abkhazia, which Russia recognized as independent from Georgia along with South Ossetia after the five-day conflict sparked by Tbilisi's assault on South Ossetia, said Friday the republic would hold its own exercises in response.

    "The planned NATO exercises in Georgia do not lead to the stabilization of the situation in the Caucasus," Sergei Bagapsh said. "We observe the situation in Georgia and we will conduct our own drills in response."

    NATO has said Russia would be welcome to join the military exercises in Georgia, but from every indication the invitation has been ignored by Moscow.

    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.

    A total of 19 countries will be participating in the exercises: Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Georgia, Hungary, Greece, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Serbia, Spain, Macedonia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Britain, and the United States.

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