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(AFP) - Azerbaijan's defense spendings will be increased by 30 percent next year, and may eventually grow by 200 percent, Azeri President Ilham Aliev said late Tuesday, linking the hike to his country's conflict with neighboring Armenia.

"Next year, defense spendings will be increased to 250 million dollars, which is 30 percent more than in 2004," Aliev told a cabinet meeting. "And in the future, we will continue to increase defense spending. As long as our land is occupied," he added, in a reference to the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, which is now under Armenian control.

"It will be (raised) by 50 percent, by 100 percent, by 200 percent, and more," Aliev said.

Armenian and Azeri forces have been locked in a tense stand-off since fighting a war in the early 1990s over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. The two sides are observing a ceasefire but crossborder shootouts are a frequent occurrence. Armenian troops last month shot dead an Azeri army officer along the volatile border that separates the two warring former Soviet republics, bringing the Azeri death toll to close to a dozen soldiers since the start of the year.
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