NATO experts to visit Georgia on Monday: officials

A NATO delegation will travel to Georgia on Monday to evaluate damage to military infrastructure following a five-day war between Moscow and Tbilisi last month, diplomatic officials told AFP.

"A NATO mission is expected here tomorrow," a European diplomatic official in Tbilisi told AFP on condition of anonymity. "It's a mission to assess the military damage," said a second diplomatic official.

A NATO official confirmed to AFP the expected arrival of the delegation.

NATO chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer is due to travel to Georgia on September 15-16 along with representatives of all 26 member states for talks with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili to discuss NATO assistance.

At an emergency meeting last month, NATO foreign ministers said it was impossible to continue "business as usual" with Russia because of the conflict, bringing a furious response from Russian officials.

The ministers agreed to set up a NATO-Georgia commission and De Hoop Scheffer said 15 experts would be sent to assess the extent of the damage in Georgia, stressing the need for aid for refugees.

Georgia is applying to join NATO and has received assurances that it will eventually become a member. US Vice President Dick Cheney reiterated Washington's support for Georgia's NATO bid during a visit last week.

Cheney also urged NATO to stand together against an "aggressive" Russia.

Russian troops remain deep inside Georgian territory following an incursion last month to fight off a Georgian assault against the separatist province of South Ossetia, where tens of thousands of residents are Russian citizens.

[Source: AFP, Khaleej Times, Are, 07Sep08]

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The Question of South Ossetia
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