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Bush Urges Russia to Extend Deadline to Rout Out Chechen Rebels


President Bush says Russia's hunt for Chechen rebels should not threaten the sovereignty of neighboring Georgia. The president says Georgian authorities must crack down on groups hiding along the border.

President Bush says he has made it clear to Georgian officials that he expects them to rout out Chechen gunmen hiding in the Pankisi Gorge.

Georgia says its army is ill-equipped to deal with the threat. Mr. Bush says U.S. troops are helping train Georgian security forces, and he has asked Russia's leader to give those forces more time to crack down on cross-border attacks.

"I have told Vladimir Putin that they must give the Georgians a chance to achieve a common objective, an objective that's important for Georgia, an objective that's important for Russia, an objective that's important for the United States," he said. "And that is to get the al-Qaida killers, and bring them to justice. And so, I urge him to continue to work with us to allow the Georgian troops to do their job."

Georgia is under increasing pressure from Russia, which says Chechen rebels are using the Pankisi Gorge as a base of operations.

Georgia's parliament Friday approved a nearly 30 percent increase in defense spending, some of which will go to new anti-aircraft weapons.

Georgia and the United States both accuse Russia of violating Georgian air space on bombing raids against Chechen rebels.

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