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Georgia Seeks to Calm Furor Over Base Plan

May 14, 2005

TBILISI, Georgia (AP) _ Georgia asked Saturday for calm negotiations over the withdrawal of two Soviet-era bases as Moscow threatened retaliation if services were cut to the facilities _ something Georgia’s parliament threatened to do earlier this year.

A Georgian presidential spokesman said the nation was dropping the threat made by parliament in March to isolate the bases if a deal on a pullout was not reached by Sunday.

``When negotiations are going on and there is visible progress, we believe it is necessary to pursue negotiations in a constructive environment, without any agitation,″ spokesman Gela Charkviani said.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Valery Loshchinin said ``the one-sided steps that Georgia is attempting to take will have mutually harmful effects. Russia may take corresponding measures.″

In Moscow, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Georgia’s response ``shows that a normal negotiating process is under way.″

The bases are a source of sharp antagonism between Russia and Georgia, which is looking West and trying to shed Russian influence.

President Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the U.S. Senate have urged Russia to withdraw its troops from Georgia, with Rice saying Moscow should end its military presence in the former Soviet republic as quickly as possible.

Georgia and Russia have been sparring over the timetable for withdrawal. Tbilisi wants the troops out within two years, while Moscow insists it needs at least four years and possibly more than a decade to complete the job.

In a sign Georgia wishes to avoid outright confrontation, Foreign Minister Salome Zurabishvili said Friday that new Russian proposals on the pullout were ``interesting.″

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