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Aliev Pledges To Double Azeri Military Budget In 2006

(AFP) – Azerbaijan will double military spending in 2006 to $600 million, President Ilham Aliev said Thursday. He also warned Armenia that Azerbaijan’s armed forces were capable of re-taking by force Nagorno-Karabakh.

“The unconstructive position of Armenia makes it impossible to make progress with the talks. But, for the moment, we hope that a peaceful solution is possible”, Aliev said during a regional visit to Lenkaran, near the Iranian border.

“At the same time, we are reinforcing our military potential. And if defense spending in 2004 was 270 million dollars; in 2005, 300 million; in 2006 it will equal 600 million dollars,” he said. “The enemy must know that our army is always able to regain the territory by military force,” Aliev said.

Karabakh, inhabited today by some 145,000 Armenians and supported by Yerevan, won its de facto independence from Azerbaijan through a 1988-1994 war that killed 25,000 people and displaced one million. Unrecognized by Azerbaijan, which has considered the region to be under Armenian occupation since the 1994 ceasefire, Karabakh’s status has yet to be settled.

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