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RUSSIA-GEORGIA

Putin Orders Friendlier Georgia Policy

President Vladimir Putin ordered his government to take steps to ease tensions with Georgia, the Foreign Ministry said Friday, a move that came amid international concern over Moscow's recent decision to strengthen ties with two breakaway Georgian regions.

Putin instructed authorities to hold talks aimed at lifting a ban on imports of Georgian wine, mineral water and other products, ending visa restrictions, and speeding up reconstruction of a border crossing, the ministry said.

The order follows Russia's announcement Wednesday that it is establishing stronger ties with Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which broke from Georgian control in the early 1990s and are not recognized by any country, including Russia.

That announcement had alarmed the West and angered Georgia, which views the move as a threat to its sovereignty.

(The Moscow Times 21.iv.08)