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Putin warns Georgia

By Vladimir Radyuhin

MOSCOW AUG. 28. In his strongest yet warning to Georgia, Russia's President, Vladimir Putin, put an equation mark between the small Caucasian state and Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, likening Chechen rebels holed up in Georgia to Al-Qaeda terrorists in Afghanistan. ``In what way the situation in Georgia is better (than in Taliban's Afghanistan)'' Mr. Putin asked rhetorically while attending military exercises in Siberia on Wednesday.

"There are terrorists there, including nationals of other countries, and they are attacking us and inflicting us real damage.'' ``Let's hope that what the Georgian leadership is doing now won't be limited to an imitation of action,'' he said. "Let's hope that it has the honest intention of getting rid of the terrorists on its soil.'' The Russian leader also indirectly rebuked the United States for taking the side of Georgia in its row with Russia and expressing strong concern over alleged bombing of Georgia's territory by Russian aircraft last week, which Moscow has denied.

``Our partners: should realise that either we jointly and effectively fight terrorism or merely simulate such fight,'' Mr. Putin said.

The Russian President repeated his offer to Georgia to jointly sweep on Chechen rebels entrenched in the Pankisi Gorge near the Russian border.

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