Georgia reiterated on Thursday that it had no plans to reduce the size of its military presence in Iraq, and sent 300 troops as part of a regular rotation. George has deployed nearly 900 servicemen to Iraq, mostly combat troops trained by U.S. military instructors. "There are no plans to reduce Georgia's peacekeeping contingent in Iraq," Georgian Defense Ministry spokeswoman Nana Intskirveli told The Associated Press. Georgia's President Mikhail Saakashvili has forged close ties with the United States and pledged to maintain its military presence in Iraq even though that 12 of its troops have been wounded since the deployment began in August 2003. "Our servicemen are getting good experience there which might be useful in Georgia," Intskirveli said in an apparent reference to conflicts in Georgia's separatist regions.
The United States has played a big role in training the military in Georgia, which has sought to distance itself from its giant northern neighbor, Russia.
Georgian officials have accused Russian troops deployed as peacekeepers to its breakaway provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia of siding with separatists, and sought Western assistance in settling the conflict there.
The 300 troops that departed Tbilisi on Thursday are to replace an equal number of servicemen returning home, Intskirveli said. They will first fly to Kuwait for two weeks of training before heading to Iraq to serve under U.S. command in Baquba, some 60 kilometers (about 35 miles) northeast of Baghdad, reports the AP. I.L.