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Chủ Nhật, 17 tháng 8, 2008

Russia pressed to honour pull-out

Western powers have stepped up pressure on Russia to honour its pledge to begin withdrawing troops from Georgia.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy - who brokered the ceasefire agreed by Russia and Georgia - warned of "serious consequences" if Moscow did not comply.

The US and Germany also urged Moscow to start to pull out its troops, who remain deep inside Georgia, on Monday.

They crossed the border after fighting erupted over Georgia's breakaway province of South Ossetia.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev made the withdrawal pledge on Sunday, in a telephone call to Mr Sarkozy.

However, Mr Medvedev did not clearly state that additional troops sent to Georgia during the conflict would return to Russia, suggesting some troops may retreat only as far as South Ossetia

The BBC's Sarah Rainsford in Moscow says the Russian statement looks like a compromise rather than complete adherence to the terms of last week's ceasefire - which says Russian troops should return to their pre-conflict positions.

Moscow - which has had peacekeepers in South Ossetia since 1992 - says it will only withdraw combat troops from Georgian territory once extra security measures are in place.

No more use of force
Stop all military actions for good
Free access to humanitarian aid
Georgian troops return to their places of permanent deployment
Russian troops to return to pre-conflict positions
International talks about security in South Ossetia and Abkhazia

Mr Sarkozy said on Sunday there would be "serious consequences" in Moscow's relations with the European Union if Russia failed to honour its pledge.

And in a separate opinion article published by Le Figaro newspaper on Monday, he said that if Russia did not "rapidly and totally" implement the pull-out as specified in the ceasefire, he would "call an extraordinary meeting of the council of the European Union".

"This pull-out must be carried out without delay," he wrote. "In my mind, this point is not negotiable."

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told NBC television on Sunday Russia's reputation as an international partner was "in tatters".

But she added, referring to the withdrawal announced by Mr Medvedev: "This time I hope he means it."

Tens of thousands of Georgians have been displaced by the fighting

Also on Sunday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel travelled to the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, and expressed support for President Mikhail Saakashvili.

She said the world expected a prompt Russian withdrawal. "We cannot delay this task," she said.

The German chancellor added that Georgia could become a Nato member if it wanted to. Tbilisi's bid to join Nato is fiercely opposed by Russia.

Nato ministers are expected to meet this week to discuss the crisis in Georgia. The US is backing efforts by both Georgia and Ukraine to join the alliance.


The BBC's Helen Fawkes in Tbilisi says there is scepticism among Georgians about whether there will be a complete withdrawal of Russian forces.

One senior Georgian official told the BBC they will only believe it when they see it.

But in an address to be televised on Monday, Mr Saakashvili will adopt a more conciliatory tone than before.

He will say: "Let's not sow discord for future generations. I don't appeal to your mercy but I appeal to your pragmatism and simple common sense."

Russian troops are still controlling the key towns of Gori, north of Tbilisi, and Senako in the west.

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