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Georgia pledges to help bolster Sochi Olympics security

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili on Wednesday pledged to work with Russia to bolster security at the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games after a top Islamist leader urged jihadists to stage attacks at the event.

"We will try our best to ensure that the Olympics, which are very important for them (Russia), are conducted peacefully," Ivanishvili told journalists at a press conference in Tbilisi.

"For our part, we will assist them to the fullest extent wherever possible," Ivanishvili said.

In a video posted Wednesday, Russian Islamist Doku Umarov called on militants to attack a range of targets, including the Sochi Games.

Russia hopes to make the 2014 Winter Games into a showcase event that highlights the economic and social strides that the country has made under President Vladimir Putin.

Moscow has previously accused Georgia -- which lies just over the Caucasus mountains from Sochi -- of supporting Chechen rebels battling Russia.

Russia and Georgia went to war in August 2008 over breakaway South Ossetia, a pro-Moscow region of Soviet-era Georgia which split with Tbilisi after the USSR crumbled in 1991.

Relations between the two foes have looked set to improve since a coalition headed by billionaire Ivanishvili beat fervent US-ally President Mikheil Saakashvili's party at parliamentary elections in October.

Ivanishvili has made improving relations with Russia his foreign policy priority but has also pledged to follow Saakashvili's pro-Western trajectory.

Georgia said in May that its athletes would compete at the Sochi Games, scotching earlier suggestions that the ex-Soviet state could boycott the event.

Russia has pumped around $50 billion (38 million euros) into transforming the Black Sea resort of Sochi, making the Games the most expensive ever.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130703/georgia-pledges-help-bolster-sochi-olympics-security