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Georgia May Seek Shelter in NATO

November 3, 1999

TBILISI, Georgia (AP) _ Georgia might speed up efforts to join NATO if Russia continues to build up military forces in the Caucasus Mountains region, an adviser to President Eduard Shevardnadze said Wednesday.

Georgians feared Russia was using the recent war in the breakaway republic of Chechnya as an excuse to increase its military presence throughout the region, foreign affairs adviser Shalva Pichkhadze said.

If Russia continues the weapons buildup, Georgia might ``actively knock on NATO doors,″ Pichkhadze told the Associated Press. Shevardnadze already has expressed strong interest in joining the alliance.

The United States accused Russia last month of violating the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty by deploying weapons in and around the breakaway republic of Chechnya. The treaty limits the number of tanks, artillery pieces, aircraft and other non-nuclear arms in Europe and other regions.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said, though, that Russia had notified the West about the deployment, and that the treaty allowed a temporary buildup.

Pichkhadze said ``the question of stationing Russian military bases on Georgian territory might arise.″ Georgia, located on the Black Sea, became independent with the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.

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