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Cooperative Archer military exercise begins in Georgia

TBILISI, July 9 (RIA Novosti) - A multinational military exercise under NATO's Partnership for Peace Program (PPP) opened Monday in Georgia, the country's Defense Ministry said Monday.

The Cooperative Archer 2007 exercise July 9-20 is aimed at ensuring better interoperability among the air forces of NATO members and their partners in landing, deployment, rescue and evacuation efforts using air transport.

The exercises will involve about 500 servicemen from four NATO member countries, eight partners in the PPP, and Jordan, the ministry said, adding that the active phase involving air sorties would be held July 16-19.

The exercises will be held at the Vasiani military base near the capital, Tbilisi. According to some reports, the Vasiani base could be included into the system of U.S. Air Force military bases supporting operations in Central Asia after Georgia joins NATO.

Since U.S.-educated President Mikheil Saakashvili came to power in the South Caucasus republic, it has been seeking to join NATO and the European Union and reduce its dependence on Russia, including in energy.

Georgia expects integration with NATO to help it restore control over its two breakaway regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and to replace Russian peacekeepers in the area with an international contingent.

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