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US urges Russia not to accept rebels' plea

Latest update : 2008-08-26

Russia's parliament has urged President Dmitry Medvedev to recognise the independence of Georgia's rebel regions of Abhkazia and South Ossetia. The US has said the move is unacceptable and against international law.

See FRANCE 24's exclusive interview with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili.

CRAWFORD, Texas - The White House on Monday pressed Russia
not to recognize Georgia's rebel areas and said Vice President
Dick Cheney, an staunch critic of Moscow, would visit the region
to show U.S. support for former Soviet states.

President George W. Bush said Georgia's borders must be
respected after the Russian parliament called on the Kremlin to
recognize two separatist regions -- South Ossetia and Abkhazia
-- as independent states.

"I call on Russia's leadership to meet its commitments and
not recognize these separatist regions," Bush said.

"Georgia's territorial integrity and borders must command
the same respect as every other nation's, including Russia's,"
he said in a statement from his Texas ranch.

Russia and Georgia, which hosts two major energy pipelines,
fought a brief war this month after Tbilisi sent troops to try
to retake South Ossetia, a pro-Moscow region that threw off
Georgian rule in the 1990s.

Russia responded with a massive counter-attack that
overwhelmed Georgia's military, and then sent troops into
Georgia proper, where some of them remain.

The push by Russia's parliament to recognize South Ossetia
and Abkhazia followed U.S. recognition of Kosovo's independence
from Serbia in February over strenuous objection from Moscow.

Moscow has withdrawn most of its forces from central and
western Georgia and says those still in place are peacekeepers
needed to avert bloodshed and protect the breakaway regions.

But Georgia and Western governments say Moscow has not
complied with a French-brokered ceasefire agreement to pull its
troops back to lines held before the start of fighting.

"There continues to be a large presence of Russian forces
in Georgia," U.S. Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman
told reporters. "It's fair to say that they are still not
living up to the terms of the ceasefire agreement."

Officials from the Group of Seven (G-7) industrialized
nations spoke on Monday and agreed the Russian withdrawal was
"inadequate," the U.S. State Department said.

Georgia and the West also object to the scale of the
Russian-imposed buffer zone adjoining the two rebel regions,
which hands Moscow pressure points on key oil and trade routes
through Georgia to the Black Sea.


Cheney, who in the past accused Moscow of blackmailing its
neighbors, will to go to Georgia in September to show U.S.
commitment to the small but vital U.S. ally, the White House
said. Cheney will also visit Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Italy
during the trip.

"The Vice President will be delivering ... the word of
America's support, and also consulting on how these leaders in
the region see the future playing out," White House spokesman
Tony Fratto told reporters in Texas.

His trip comes as the Bush administration considers what
steps it might take against Moscow, which has largely ignored
Western demands since the conflict began.

The administration was considering what to do about a
recently signed deal on civilian nuclear cooperation with
Moscow that Bush sent to Congress earlier this year, the State
Department said.

Asked whether the administration would withdraw the
agreement, Acting Under Secretary of State for Arms Control
John Rood said: "That's something that obviously we are going
to have to evaluate, given the current situation. I don't have
any announcements on that one way or another."

In Moscow, a Russian nuclear official said the Bush
administration should withdraw the accord to prevent it being
blocked by the current Congress. Key U.S. lawmakers have cast
doubt on the pact's prospects after the war in Georgia.

Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, Democratic presidential candidate
Barack Obama's running mate and head of the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee, said recently that Russia's actions had
"erased" the possibility of legislative efforts to promote the
nuclear deal.

The pact is required under U.S. law before countries can
cooperate on nuclear materials, such as storing spent fuel or
working together on advanced reactor programs.

It goes into force later this year unless Congress votes to
block it  -- or adjourns for the year before lawmakers have had
90 legislative days to review it.

Date created : 2008-08-26