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‘Arms under Guise of Aid’ Allegation ‘Ridiculous’ – White House
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 27 Aug.'08 / 02:16

The White House said the Russian president’s allegation that the United States was brining arms to Georgia under the guise of humanitarian aid was “ridiculous.”

In an interview with BBC on August 26, President Dmitry Medvedev denied that Russia was blockading the Georgian port town of Poti, despite a Russian military presence on the outskirts of the town.

“There is no blockade. Any ship can get in, American and others are bringing in humanitarian cargoes. And what the Americans call humanitarian cargoe - of course, they are bringing in weapons,” he said.

“That's ridiculous,” Tony Fratto, a White House spokesman, told journalists on August 26. “I can assure you that these are purely humanitarian aid shipments that are going into Georgia and nothing else.”

A U.S. Coast Guard cutter, the USS Dallas, is currently heading towards Georgia to bring another shipment of humanitarian aid. Earlier a destroyer, the USS McFaul, delivered about 80 tons of aid to Batumi, a town south of Poti. The port in Batumi has a much smaller capacity that that in Poti. The USS McFaul has already left Batumi, but it remains in the Black Sea, according to the U.S. Navy.

There have been conflicting reports about the U.S. Coast Guard cutter’s destination – Poti or Batumi.

Earlier on August 26 Reuters and The Associated Press reported, quoting a U.S. embassy representative in Tbilisi as saying that U.S. ship-borne humanitarian aid would be delivered to Poti on August 27.

Later, a U.S. Navy official told Civil.Ge that no final decision had been made as to where the cutter would dock.

Reuters reported late on August 26, quoting an unnamed “source close to the U.S. embassy” in Tbilisi as saying that plans to deliver ship-borne aid directly to Poti had been scrapped.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman confirmed that the U.S. Coast Guard vessel was expected to arrive in Georgia on August 27; he, however, did not specify where the ship would dock.

He also said that the U.S. had made it “very clear to the Russians what the purpose of the U.S. military is [in Georgia], and we are not anticipating any problems with our ability to deliver humanitarian assistance.”

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