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Saakashvili: Russia-France Arms Deal ‘Very Risky’
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 19 Feb.'10 / 17:54

President Saakashvili said possible purchase of French Mistral-class warship by Russia was posing threat to its neighbors and Moscow’s bid to buy French armored vehicles was even more worrying.

Saakashvili told reporters in London on February 18, that the prospective warship sale was “very unusual and very, very risky” and the “tank issue is 10 times bigger.”

He said if Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin “gets tanks, ships, missiles — technology which he's also shopping for — then we are getting into a very, very risky zone,” The Wall Street Journal reported.

Saakashvili also said Georgia had an “informal exchange of opinions” with Paris about the warship deal but hadn't made an official protest. And according to The Times report, Saakashvili said he would seek urgent talks with French President Sarkozy, who has approved but not yet formally announced the sale of the warship to Russia.

He said the warship deal could be seen as a “reward” to France from Moscow for not forcing Russia to fully comply with the terms of the August 12, 2008 ceasefire accord, mediated by President Sarkozy in a capacity of EU presidency.

French ambassador in Tbilisi, Eric Fournier, told Georgian TV station Rustavi 2 in a Georgian-language statement, that Russia’s proposal to buy the warship was “in principle accepted positively” by Paris, but discussions and considerations were still underway.

French company Panhard said this week that it was discussing selling “less than a dozen” of four-person Light armoured vehicles (VBL) to Russia.

Speaking to reporters in London, Saakashvili also criticized Paris-based satellite operator, Eutelsat, for not allowing the Georgian public broadcaster’s Russian-language channel, First Caucasian, to broadcast from one of the operator’s satellites.

“They knocked it off the air on political grounds — because Russia doesn't like it,” The Wall Street Journal reported quoting Saakashvili.

Paris court of commerce will launch hearing Georgian public broadcaster’s case against Eutelsat on February 22.

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