Georgian foreign minister says base withdrawal talks with Russia nearing end

Georgia's Foreign Minister said that the prolonged talks on withdrawal of Russia's two Soviet-era bases from the Caucasus Mountains country were drawing to an end.

Foreign Minister Salome Zurabishvili told journalists Monday night that the two sides had "managed to clear the draft agreement of secondary questions and approach the fundamental issue."

Moscow and Tbilisi have been locked in tense negotiations over the timetable - a source of growing tension as Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili and his Western-oriented government seek to shake off Russian influence.

Georgia has insisted the bases be out by January 2008, but Russia wants more time to prepare infrastructure to house the returning troops and equipment.

Georgia has, however, been signaling readiness for a compromise. Parliamentary speaker Nino Burdzhanadze said late Monday that the agreement achieved so far "is not ideal, but ... it's very hard to achieve an ideal in negotiations."

Zurabishvili said she might meet again in Moscow with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to iron out the final text of the agreement.


On the photo: Georgia's Foreign Minister Salome Zurabishvili

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