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The News in Brief

Monday, June 30
NATO Chief Says Alliance Must Deal With Russia's 'New Warfare'

NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen has opened a meeting of alliance foreign ministers by noting Russia's use of "ambiguous" warfare in Ukraine while saying its door "remains open" to aspirant countries.

The meeting in Brussels is also expected to include a discussion of the crisis in Iraq, with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in attendance.

In opening remarks, Rasmussen called it a "critical moment for our security."

He said NATO needs to continue to adapt its readiness, as the Alliance faces "old threats and new, from Eastern Europe to North Africa and the Middle East."

Rasmussen said NATO has witnessed Russia using a "new, different type of warfare" against Ukraine and has seen "no signs" of Russia respecting its international commitments.

He said NATO will disuss how to improve its understanding of "ambiguous threats and how we deal with them in the longer term."

He also said NATO will open "intensified" talks with Montenegro and make an assessment by the end of 2015 whether to invite Podgorica to join.

He said a substantive package is being developed for Georgia to help it move closer to the alliance but made no mention of membership.

As for Iraq, Kerry met late on June 24 with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and other European allies and discussed what a spokeswoman called the "grave security situation in Iraq."

Kerry flew in from Iraq on June 24 where he met with officials in the northern autonomous Kurdish region following talks a day earlier in Baghdad with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

The Brussels meeting is the final top-level gathering before a summit of NATO leaders scheduled for September in Wales.

Georgian leaders congratulate Muslims as Ramadan begins

The President of Georgia and the country’s Prime Minister are congratulating the Muslim population in Georgia who are beginning Ramadan - a strict month-long fast where nothing can be eaten within sunlight hours.

President Giorgi Margvelashvili released a special statement wishing Muslims in Georgia wealth, longevity, success, and peace of mind as they embark on a month of dedicated fasting.

“The holy month of Ramadan is one of the main pillars of your faith and I want you to [embrace Ramadan] with dignity, faith and patience. You have made a very significant contribution to the building of our homeland. Your ancient and unique culture and traditions are part of the wealth of our country and an integral part of its diversity,” President Margvelashvili wrote.

Ramadan takes place each year and takes place during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. It is a time of deep reflection for Muslims worldwide, who all observe a month of intense fasting.

In Prime Minister Garibashvili’s open letter, he wished peace, health, and happiness to the Muslim population as they began Ramadan.

“The holy month of Ramadan is very special and important to each and every Muslim.

“I believe each of you contribute to the progress of our country and we all will live together in a united and strong Georgia.”

Ramadan is an annual observance and is regarded as one of the five Pillars of Islam. The fasting period lasts 29 to 30 days, based on visual sightings of the crescent moon.

Muslims, and people living in Muslim countries, fast from dawn until sunset. Muslims are forbidden to consume food and water while the sun is up and can only eat before sunrise and after sunset.

Fasting for Muslims during Ramadan typically includes an increased offering of prayers and recitation of the Quran. The spiritual discipline is meant to train the human soul in deeper mindfulness and self-restraint.

US Congress delegation to visit Georgia

The U.S. Congress delegation will visit Georgia on June 29. According to the U.S. Embassy, Senator Ben Cardin (Maryland State, Democratic Party) will head the delegation, who is the head of the European Security and Cooperation Commission (the U.S. Helsinki Commission).

The delegation will hold meetings with the Prime Minister of Georgia, Irakli Gharibashvili, President Giorgi Margvelashvili and other government members.

The delegation members will also meet with representatives of the United National Movement. According to the U.S. Embassy, the delegation will discuss the association agreement with the EU and issues of Georgia’s sovereignty. The U.S. support towards Georgia’s democratic development and territorial integrity and appreciation of Georgia’s contribution to NATO missions will be stressed.

The delegation will also include Senator Tom Harking (Iowa, Democratic Party), Congressman Robert Aderholt (Alabama, Republican Party), Congressman Adam Ship (California, Democratic Party), Congressman Phil Gingery (Arizona, Republican Party) and Congressman David Sweikert (Arizona, Republican Party).

Repeat voting is being held in nine districts

The Central Election Commission (CEC) held its first news briefing on June 29 repeat voting.

The CEC spokesperson, Eka Arazashvili told journalists that repeat voting of 2014 Municipal Elections is being held at 14 election precincts in nine districts. She said, all precincts were open at 08:00 and the first voters had already cast their votes.

"The election process is being conducted in a calm atmosphere,” Arazashvili stated.

She said that the only instance where an unauthorized person, who was from the United National Movement, was present at a polling station occurred at ¹34 election precinct in the Kobuleti district.

"Precinct Election Commission representatives asked him several times to leave the election precinct but the person refused. The CEC urges all stakeholders involved in elections to ensure peaceful environment for polling procedures and to abide by the rules prescribed by the legislation” Arazashvili said.

The CEC has announced several news briefings during the day about voter turnout and the election process in general.