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The News in Brief

Friday, February 3
International forces to end military operation in Afghanistan in 2013

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters Wednesday that the United States is looking to end combat operations in Afghanistan by the second half of next year. The mission will end in 2013, with troops leaving Afghanistan in 2014.

"Its still a pretty robust role that well be engaged in. Its not going to be a kind of formal combat role that we are [in] now. That doesnt mean that were not going to be combat ready. We will be, because we always have to be in order to defend ourselves," Panetta said.

The International Security Assistance Force - Afghanistan has a fixed deadline of 2014 for ending the war, according to The Washington Post. Panetta confirmed that both American and ISAF troops will remain in the country at least until that deadline. (Interpressnews)

U.S.-Georgia Strategic Partnership Commission website launched

The U.S. Department of State has announced the creation of a new website to document the progress of the U.S.-Georgia Strategic Partnership Commission.

According to a press release, "The site presents important information on the work of the Commission, including statements from senior U.S. and Georgian policy-makers, and information on the efforts of the bilateral working groups on democracy; defense and security; economic, trade, and energy issues; and people-to-people and cultural exchanges".

Senior U.S. and Georgian officials lead annual working group meetings to assess the relationship between the two countries. The website intends to publicly outline their efforts.

The Embassy of the United States in Georgia provided more details in a statement, saying that the website will publish specific steps taken by both governments to achieve their common goals. (Rustavi 2)

Restrictions imposed on roads due to bad weather

Low temperatures, heavy precipitation, and strong wind have caused problems in all of Georgia's regions.

Restrictions have been imposed on the Kakheti highway, with snow ploughs and special vehicles mobilized to the Sartichala section of the highway in order to restore service.

Strong wind and heavy snow inflicted serious damage to the Sagarejo and Akhmeta districts of the Kakheti Region. Five villages of the Ilto district are still isolated from the rest of the region.

Fog and heavy snow caused problems on the Rikoti Pass, which connects the eastern and western halves of Georgia. The road department brigades have not yet begun the work on the Jvari Pass, but traffic is open towards the Gudauri ski resort - road brigades are working intensely here.

Strong wind also affected several houses in Tbilisi Wednesday night. Buildings were damaged, trees were uprooted, and houses lost their roofs in the capital.

The depth of snow in Batumi has reached 30 cm. Snow ploughs are clearing roads and spreading salt. Locals say it has not snowed that much in Batumi in ten years.

In addition, over 19 000 subscribers are disconnected from the electricity network in Samegrelo and Svaneti Regions, where strong wind has damaged electricity wires. Over 65 000 subscribers throughout Georgia have lost power. Energo-Pro Georgia crews are currently working to repair damaged sections of the network. (Rustavi 2)

Christian-Democratic Movement leaders hold meetings with U.S. Congress members

Christian-Democratic Movement leader Giorgi Targamdze and International Secretary Giorgi Rukhadze held meetings with U.S. Congress members this week.

Developments in Georgia, issues of defense and security, and competitive elections were discussed at the meeting, the press service of the Christian-Democratic Movement informed InterpressNews.

Targamadze expressed hope that a deepening of military cooperation between the United States and Georgia would increase security guarantees in the region.

His visit began on January 26. His team held meetings in the Senate, Congress, the State Department, the National Democratic Institute and the Republican Institute. Targamadze has also been invited to breakfast with U.S. President Barack Obama. (Interpressnews)

Putin predicts disorder in Russia if he does not win in first round of election

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin believes that political instability and disorder will result if he does not decisively win the first round of presidential elections on March 4th. For the first time, the Russian PM accepted the possibility of a second round of elections, at a campaign meeting with law students.

"I would not run in the election without the hope of victory. I understand and I hope you understand too that the second round means to continue the battle and therefore, political instability is quite possible. However, there is nothing dangerous for me, as I am prepared to run in the second round if it is necessary," Putin maintained.

Opposition presidential candidate, billionaire Mikheil Prokhorov, disagrees - he believes that a run-off would be good for Russia, as it would facilitate the formation of a competitive democratic system in the country.

While presidential candidates are making their predictions, the European Union`s High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, has called upon the Russian Central Election Commission to reverse its decision and register disqualified nominee Gregory Yavlinsky as a presidential candidate. (Rustavi 2)

Medicines harmful for health to be removed from drugstores

The state regulatory agency of Georgia has begun a new procedure for removing medicine and personal hygiene products from pharmacies, after recent laboratory tests discovered they contained unacceptably high levels of boric acid.

The affected products are Teimoruv ointment, eye and nasal drops. The agency has also published the list of the companies that sell the Teimoruv drugs - Neopharm, Hymoptorg and Zelionaia Dubrova.

The World Health Organization has declared it hazardous to human health if a dose of boric acid exceeds 1% in any medicine. An overdose of boric acid can cause kidney, liver, cardiovascular and dermal problems. (Rustavi 2)