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U.S. to bolster Georgian forces

The Bush administration is moving to rebuild Georgia's military while asserting it will not let Russia divide Europe again.

“Georgia, like any sovereign country, should have the ability to defend itself and to deter renewed aggression,” Undersecretary of Defense Eric Edelman told a Senate committee Tuesday.

The Pentagon will send an assessment team to Tbilisi this week to help figure out Georgia's “legitimate needs” and show U.S. support for the nation's security, Edelman said.

Russia, meanwhile, plans to more than double its military presence in the breakaway Georgian republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and station troops there indefinitely, officials said Tuesday, a day after President Dmitry Medvedev agreed to withdraw Russian forces from the rest of Georgia by Oct. 11.

At a news briefing, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russian troops would remain in the separatist regions “for the foreseeable future to prevent any relapses of aggressive actions.” Separately, Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov was quoted telling Medvedev that the two republics had agreed to host bases with about 3,600 Russian soldiers each.

At the U.N., Russia moved to block the U.S. effort. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin circulated a draft resolution that would impose a U.N. arms embargo on Georgia, preventing the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer of arms to the former Soviet republic.

The Washington Post contributed.

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