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Last Updated: Friday, 9 March 2007, 05:57 GMT
Georgia to double troops in Iraq
By Matthew Collin
BBC News, Tbilisi

Georgian soldiers (file image)
Georgia currently has 850 soldiers in Iraq serving with US troops
Georgia has announced that it will more than double the number of troops it has serving with the US-led forces in Iraq from 850 to 2,000.

Georgia is a small former Soviet republic with a strongly pro-western government with ambitions to join Nato.

The move will make it one of the leading contributors to the US-led forces in the country.

It comes as other countries like Britain, Denmark and Lithuania plan to reduce their troop numbers in Iraq.

Nato signal

Since the current Georgian government came to power after the Rose Revolution in 2003, one of its main goals has been to join Nato.

US -132,000
UK - 7,100
South Korea - 3,200
Poland - 900
Georgia - 800-850
Australia - 900
Romania - 600-865
Denmark - 460
El Salvador - 380
Bulgaria - 150
Sources: Brookings Institution; Globalsecurity.org; media reports

By sending more troops to serve in Iraq, it hopes to send a message that it can contribute to what it describes as global security.

Georgia has been trying to modernise its army with help from American military advisors.

In a statement, President Mikhail Saakashvili said that Georgia wanted to do everything possible to help the Iraqi people and US-led forces to bring peace and freedom to the country.

Mr Saakashvili also indicated recently that Georgia would be willing to send troops to serve with Nato forces in Afghanistan.

Support for joining Nato is widespread in Georgia - people see it as a guarantee of security in the country's long-running dispute with its powerful neighbour, Russia, and as an indication that it will not give up its pro-Western direction.

But, although Nato has offered encouragement, it is not yet clear whether Georgia will be ready to join by the end of the decade and its plans are strongly opposed by Moscow.

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