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Georgia is increasing its troop presence in Iraq (file photo) (epa)
May 30, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Georgian Defense Minister Davit Kezerashvili today said additional Georgian troops being sent to Iraq in June will be tasked with patrolling the city of Al-Kut in Wasit Governorate, about 185 kilometers southeast of Baghdad.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with RFE/RL's Georgian Service, Kezerashvili said the mission will differ from that of Georgian troops currently stationed in the city of Ba'qubah.
"I would not say that the province of Wasit is more dangerous than the place where the Georgian troops are currently deployed -- the city of Ba'qubah [50 kilometers northeast of Baghdad] -- Ba'qubah is one of the hot spots in Iraq," Kezerashvili said. "But the task of our troops in Ba'qubah is different. There they have only to guard a base and a bridge; they do not have to patrol there."
Kezerashvili explained that the patrols in Wasit are intended in part to control arms smuggling.
"There is certain information available according to which weapons are smuggled from Iran into Iraq via this [Wasit] province and currently there is no reaction to this," he said. "But the Georgian soldiers will have to react to this, which means that a certain level of tension will be triggered."
Georgia plans to increase its presence in Iraq from its current level of 850 troops to 2,000.
(RFE/RL's Georgian Service)