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Russia Opposes US Training in Georgia

April 18, 2002

MOSCOW (AP) _ A Russian defense official objected Thursday to the planned U.S. military training in Georgia, saying that American influence in the Caucasus Mountains region was growing and cause for alarm.

``The presence of American divisions in Georgia should worry any Russian soldier,″ Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Kosovan told the ITAR-Tass news agency.

The United States announced in February that it would send military instructors to help train Georgian troops to fight terrorists. U.S. officials have said they suspect fighters linked to Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network are hiding in Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge.

President Putin reacted calmly to the announcement, but many other Russian officials have expressed anger at Washington’s plans.

Kosovan said Georgia had rejected earlier Russian offers of help in clearing out the Pankisi Gorge, according to ITAR-Tass. Russia has said Chechen rebels are using the gorge bordering Chechnya to rest, regroup and rearm.

Update hourly