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Georgia: Russia To Discuss Withdrawal From Military Bases

Tbilisi, 10 December 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Russian and Georgian officials are expected to resume talks today on the Russian withdrawal from two military bases in Georgia. Yesterday, Georgian Foreign Ministry spokesman Kakha Sikharulidze said officials from Russia's Defense and Foreign ministries will be meeting with their counterparts for two days of talks in Tbilisi.

In 1999, Russia agreed on a deal -- brokered by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe -- to hand back four bases in the former Soviet republic before July 2001. Only two bases have been returned: Gudauta, in the breakaway republic of Abkhazia, and an air base at Vaziani, near Tbilisi.

Georgia has insisted Russia hand back the remaining two bases -- Akhalkaladi and Batumi -- within three years. But Russia has demanded 11 years for the handover. Talks broke down in July.