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U.S. Said Ready To Nix Russia Exercise Due To Georgia

WASHINGTON -- The United States is likely to cancel a naval exercise with Russia to indicate its disapproval of Moscow's military operations in Georgia, a senior U.S. defense official said.

The annual exercise, known as FRUKUS, also involves vessels from Britain and France and was due to begin within the next week in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of the Russian port city of Vladivostok, Pentagon officials said.

"In all likelihood it will be canceled," the senior defense official said, speaking on condition of anonymity as no decision had yet been officially announced.

Top U.S. officials, including President George W. Bush, have strongly criticized Russia's operations in Georgia but a decision to cancel the exercise would be one of Washington's first concrete actions of protest.

"We're discussing it," another senior U.S. official said when asked if the United States would pull out. "Let us discuss it with the other participants, but I think I can say that its hard to imagine this would be fruitful at this time."

Fighting between Russian and Georgian forces began last week after Georgia tried to regain control of the separatist province of South Ossetia and Russia launched a massive counteroffensive.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev ordered a halt to military operations in Georgia on Tuesday but Tbilisi cast doubt on the announcement, saying Moscow was still bombing towns and villages.