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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

U.S. Plans in Georgia

MOSCOW (AP) -- U.S. troops landing in Georgia in the next few days plan to remain there for almost two years as they train key units of Georgian armed forces, the commander of the U.S force said Thursday.

The Pentagon has said the training will help the Georgian military "address the situation in the Pankisi Gorge," a lawless area of northeast Georgia where Washington says terrorists linked to al-Qaida may be sheltered among Muslim guerrillas.

The training program commander told reporters, however, that he and his officers will not visit the rugged Pankisi area near Tbilisi.

"We have not now nor do we plan to survey or go near Pankisi," Lieutenant Colonel Robert Waltemeyer said. "My job is to train and equip."

Asked about the quality of the Georgian military, Waltemeyer said some have studied at advanced U.S. military schools, and "the talents and capabilities they have are really quite high." Of the troops, he said, "my Green Berets are very impressed with the mental and physical discipline we see in the soldiers."

Myanmar Reactor

MOSCOW (AP) -- Russia has agreed to help Myanmar's military regime construct a center for nuclear studies and a research nuclear reactor, the Russian government said.

Under the agreement, the two countries will cooperate in designing and building a nuclear studies center that will include a research nuclear reactor with a thermal capacity of 10 megawatts and two laboratories, the government said in a statement.

The agreement will also include structures for the disposal of nuclear waste and a waste burial site.

Russia has agreed to design the center, offer assistance in choosing the site and supply equipment and materials. Russian experts will also assemble, install and help operate the center's main technical equipment, the statement said.

Under the plan, Russia will deliver the nuclear fuel. The agreement did not say when work would begin.

Ustinov on Skinheads

MOSCOW (AP) -- The top prosecutor has ordered stronger action against neo-Nazi and other extremist groups and blamed police for failing to stem their activities, the Prosecutor General's Office said Thursday.

"Law enforcement agencies, government bodies and municipal structures have failed to take timely action to prevent the activities of organizations and individuals spreading the ideas of social, racial, ethnic and religious hatred," Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov said in an order to local prosecutors.

Citizenship Bill

MOSCOW (AP) -- The Federation Council has overwhelmingly passed a bill that would make it more difficult to acquire Russian citizenship.

The Federation Council voted 126-13 with three abstentions Wednesday to approve the government-proposed bill. It was approved by the State Duma in April. Now it goes to President Vladimir Putin to be signed into law.

The bill requires applicants to spend at least five years in Russia, pass a Russian-language exam and have a job to receive citizenship. The current law requires only a three-year residence and no language testing.

Kaliningrad Stake

MOSCOW (AP) -- Russia's future cooperation with the European Union will depend in large part on whether the EU ensures that its expansion does not further isolate the Kaliningrad enclave, sandwiched between Lithuania and Poland, the Foreign Ministry said.

The Kremlin fears that if these two countries become part of the EU as expected, free passage between Russia and Kaliningrad will become problematic because of EU border and visa regulations.

European Commission President Romano Prodi promised Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov on Wednesday that the EU will try to settle the dispute ahead of its eastward expansion, expected in 2004.

"The way this problem is solved will be of key importance for determining the outlook for Russia's cooperation with the European Union," said Alexander Yakovenko, spokesman for the Foreign Ministry.

NATO Summit

ROME (AP) -- Italy will deploy an anti-missile system and as many as 15,000 security forces as part of massive security measures during a NATO-Russia summit that will bring 20 heads of government and state to a seaside town May 28.

NATO and Russia are to sign an agreement establishing a joint council to set policy on counterterrorism and a range of other issues at an air base in Pratica di Mare, 15 kilometers south of the Italian capital.

Belarus Trial Delayed

MINSK, Belarus (AP) -- Trial proceedings were again postponed Thursday in the case of two Belarussian journalists accused of slandering their president, this time because a prosecutor had fallen ill.

The chief editor of the Pahonia newspaper, Nikolai Markevich, and Pahonia journalist Pavel Mozheiko were charged in February with slander against President Alexander Lukashenko. The newspaper was shut down last year.

Supporters insist the charges are retaliation for articles questioning Lukashenko's role in the disappearances of opposition figures. The two face five years in prison if convicted.

For the Record

The government will amend this year's budget to increase spending by 23 million rubles ($730,000) to raise military wages, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov told the State Duma on Wednesday. (AP)

Stormy seas on Thursday again delayed the launch of an operation to collect fragments of the Kursk nuclear submarine's damaged bow from the Barents Sea floor. (AP)

The State Duma voted 236-1 to pass a non-binding resolution Wednesday urging the government to oppose stronger United Nations' economic sanctions against Iraq -- the belated move came a day after Russia backed the new, U.S.-proposed sanctions. (AP)

Foreign Ministry on Thursday praised Latvia for amending an election language law that Moscow said discriminated against Russian speakers and that had threatened the Baltic nation's bid to join NATO. Latvia's parliament voted last week to amend the law, which required that candidates for elected office be able to speak Latvian. (AP)