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Top Georgian Police Official Heads To U.S.

23 February 2005 -- Georgia's top police official left Tbilisi today for a two-day trip to the United States to discuss security cooperation.

Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili told reporters that Georgia has had traditionally active cooperation with U.S. law enforcement and intelligence services and hopes to deepen and strengthen contacts.

His trip began a day after the Georgian parliament approved a plan by President Mikheil Saakashvili to merge the Interior Ministry with the State Security Ministry.

Saakashvili ordered the shake-up last month, saying it was necessary because of alleged conspiracies facing the country.

He did not elaborate, but many saw his comments as a reference to separatist movements in two Georgian regions -- Abkhazia and South Ossetia -- which became de facto independent after wars in the early 1990s. Saakashvili has vowed to reassert central control over both regions.