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Georgia starts a new round of rotation of its peacekeeping contingent in Iraq.
On Monday, sources in the Georgian Defense Ministry announced that two Georgian companies (300 men) had been sent to Kuwait for re-training. Later, they will be sent to Iraq. The rotation of the Georgian peacekeeping contingent will be concluded by the end of next week. Fresh military personnel will substitute 159 soldiers and officers serving in three Iraqi cities - Tikrit, Baghdad and Baakub since April 2004. By the decree of the Georgian government, the number of Georgian military personnel in Iraq will increase up to 850 people in January 2005. The increased contingent will perform the following tasks: protection of military bases and coalition facilities out of bases; patrolling and detention of suspected terrorists; search for and seizure of terrorists' weapons and ammunition, and protection of the UN mission in Baghdad. According to Georgian Defense Minister Georgiy Baramidze, the security detail for the UN mission consists of three levels. The external ring is composed of American soldiers, and Georgian soldiers will form an internal security detail. The minister underlined that all Georgian peacekeepers serve in Iraq on a voluntary basis. "The military must certainly obey orders, but the Georgian leadership decided not to send soldiers to Iraq against their will," he stressed. Meanwhile, according to reports from sources close to the Georgian Defense Ministry, a group of American military instructors is expected to arrive in Tbilisi on November 8. The Americans will conduct preparatory work for a new US-Georgian military program worth $32 million. In the course of a year-long training program, the American instructors will train 6 battalions numbering in total up to 3,000 soldiers. The participation of Georgia in the peacekeeping operations in Iraq under the US aegis is a gesture of gratitude for the militaryassistance provided by the United States for that Trans-Caucasian state. Washington has already expressed its satisfaction with the news about the increase of the Georgian contingent in Iraq. In 2003-2004, the United States allocated $64 million for the training of the Georgian military personnel in the framework of the recently concluded Training and Equipment program. 2,750 Georgian military personnel were trained in the course of the program.
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