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US Says Russia Must Remove All Military Equipment From Georgia


The U.S. government says Russia is obligated by the cease-fire agreement it signed with Georgia to remove any military equipment it brought into the country, including the disputed South Ossetia region. Meanwhile, U.S. relief efforts to Georgia are increasing, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will discuss rebuilding the country's security forces and related issues at a special meeting of NATO foreign ministers on Tuesday. VOA's Al Pessin reports from the Pentagon, where officials were asked about reports that Russia may have deployed short-range missile launchers in Georgia last Friday.

Pentagon Spokesman Bryan Whitman would not comment directly on reports that Russian troops may have begun installing short-range missile launchers in South Ossetia, but he says, if they did, the missiles must be removed.

"Anything such as that, or any other military equipment that was moved in would be in violation of this cease-fire, and should be removed immediately," said Whitman. "The only forces that are permitted to remain under the cease-fire agreement are the forces that were in there in the August fifth timeframe."

The New York Times quotes unidentified U.S. officials as saying Russia deployed several short-range SS-21 missile launchers and related supply vehicles into South Ossetia on Friday. Russia has denied the report.

Meanwhile, with 12 planeloads of American relief supplies already in Georgia, the U.S. military is increasing the pace of the flights, and the size of the aircraft. Officials say nearly 40 flights are expected during the next 10 days, many of them by large C-17 cargo planes based in the United States.

"There continues to be a shortage of bedding, food, hygiene kits, kitchen sets, tents," he said. "And, so, there is a real need, and we're trying to fill that need and alleviate the suffering. The Defense Department, as the lead for humanitarian operations, is looking at other options for sustaining the humanitarian relief operation."

Whitman says that could include deliveries by U.S. Navy ships. He says officials are negotiating for clearances. Whitman reports $3 million worth of U.S. supplies have been provided so far. He says about 125 U.S. troops are in Georgia for the operation, led by a brigadier general. But, distribution beyond the capital is being handled by six non-governmental organizations.

The White House says U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will discuss Georgia relief and reconstruction efforts with NATO foreign ministers in Brussels Tuesday. Spokesman Gordon Johndroe spoke in Texas, where President Bush is on vacation.

"The United States is committed to helping Georgia rebuild not only its infrastructure, but also help them rebuild their security forces as well," said Gordon Johndroe. "And, so, I think, that's the type of thing that she will have a discussion with allies on."

Johndroe also repeated the Pentagon's call for all Russian troops and military equipment sent into Georgia since the conflict began to be removed. An international force is to monitor the cease-fire, and the State Department says that will also be on the NATO agenda on Tuesday.

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