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    Russian President Says NATO Membership Would Not Have Changed Action Against Georgia

    Russian President Dmitri Medvedev says he would have launched military operations against Georgia even if the Caucasus country had been on a firm path to NATO membership.

    The Russian leader told a meeting of foreign policy experts in Moscow that he would have reacted the same way whether or not Georgia was a NATO candidate.  

    He also compared Georgia's efforts to recapture its breakaway region of South Ossetia to the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States in that it signaled a major change in the world.

    NATO's April summit in Bucharest had put off action on putting Georgia on the track to membership until later this year.

    Russian forces pushed into Georgia last month in response to Georgian efforts to recapture its region of South Ossetia.  It called the operation an effort to protect its citizens.

    Moscow later recognized South Ossetia and another breakaway Georgian region, Abkhazia, as independent states.

    Earlier this week, Russia signed a French-mediated accord, agreeing to remove its troops from areas of Georgia outside the two regions its forces have held as a security zone, once international monitors deploy there.

    But Russian authorities insist on maintaining about 7,600 troops in the two regions and are refusing to allow new international observers into those areas.  

    Russia's RiaNovosti news agency quotes Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as saying that the planned October 15 talks on the future of the two areas will focus on efforts to guarantee the demilitarization of Georgia - not on the international status of the regions.

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