US warship in Georgia on training mission

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A US warship arrived in ex-Soviet Georgia on Monday for a joint training programme, with local officials rejecting Russia's description of its Black Sea mission as a security threat.

The US Navy cruiser Monterey equipped with a ballistic missile defence system arrived in the Georgian port of Batumi for a three-day call to hold training with local coastguards, the US embassy in Tbilisi said.

"The USS Monterey is operating in the Black Sea to conduct joint maritime training with several countries adjoining the Black Sea," the embassy said in a statement.

"US ships have regularly deployed in the Black Sea region for many years and represent the continuing US commitment to Black Sea regional stability and maritime security," the statement said.

The warship's participation in naval exercises in neighbouring Ukraine earlier this month drew a sharp reaction from Russia.

"The Russian side has repeatedly stressed that we will not let pass unnoticed the appearance of elements of US strategic infrastructure in the immediate proximity to our borders and will see such steps as a threat to our security," the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement.

But Georgia's Deputy Foreign Minister Nino Kalandadze rejected Moscow's concerns.

"As far as the Russian foreign ministry's protest is concerned, the training is aimed at improving global security in the region. It has nothing to do with Russia," Kalandadze told reporters on Monday.

US warships have regularly visited staunch ally Georgia's ports since the country's brief war with Russia in 2008, despite repeated criticism from officials in Moscow.

© 2011 AFP

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