President: Georgia does not want war in S. Ossetia

President Saakashvili said that "Confrontation is not in Georgia's interests and I hope and I'm sure that the continuation of confrontation is not in Russia's interests either."

President: Georgia does not want war in S. Ossetia
Georgia does not want war in its breakaway region of South Ossetia, President Mikheil Saakashvili said on Thursday after Russia accused Tbilisi of triggering overnight clashes with rebels and preparing for war.

The South Ossetian authorities earlier said 18 people were wounded in what it described as heavy overnight artillery bombardment of the breakaway capital Tskhinvali and surrounding villages.

"Confrontation is not in Georgia's interests and I hope and I'm sure that the continuation of confrontation is not in Russia's interests either," Saakashvili told journalists in televised comments in the town of Gori near South Ossetia.

Tensions between ex-Soviet Georgia and its two breakaway regions, South Ossetia and the Black Sea region Abkhazia, have increased in recent months.

Both regions, which broke away from Georgia in the early 1990s, enjoy financial and political support from Moscow and the vast majority of locals have Russian citizenship.

Moscow and the West are vying for influence over vital energy transit routes in the region, and Georgia has angered Russia by pushing for membership of NATO.

Moscow had accused Georgia of gearing up for war and Russian television reported a Georgian military buildup near the boundary with South Ossetia.

"Concern was expressed that the action of the Georgian side around Tskhinvali can be regarded as war preparations," the foreign ministry said on its website after a telephone conversation between Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin and South Ossetia's leader, Eduard Kokoity.

Troop movements

Interfax news agencies quoted a senior South Ossetian official as saying the mechanised battalion of the Georgian army's 5th brigade was being loaded onto trailers and despatched to the conflict zone.

"When these detachments arrive, the Georgian side plans to launch large-scale military actions," the secretary of the separatist Security Council Anatoly Barankevich told the Interfax news agency.

Georgia's interior ministry denied the report.

Russia has previously accused Georgia of building up its military forces around South Ossetia and Abkhazia, allegations Georgia denies.

The United States, Georgia's main ally, urged the two sides on Wednesday to halt the violence and resume negotiations but it was unclear if upcoming talks between South Ossetian and Georgian officials would go ahead.

Earlier South Ossetia said a Georgian artillery attack had injured 18 people, intensifying fighting which the rebels also said killed six people over the weekend.

"As a result of overnight firing by Georgian military units against the Republic of South Ossetia 18 injured were brought into the hospital," the website www.cominf.org said.

Georgia said it had information an unknown number of rebels had been killed. It said its forces were responding to fire from Ossetian military positions towards Georgian-held villages.

"We are facing a clear attempt to engage Georgia in fully-fledged military conflict," Georgian Reintegration Minister Temur Iakobashvili told a news conference.

He said two members of the Georgian security forces had been wounded and accused Russia, which has peacekeepers in the region, of "arming and supporting the secessionists."

Reuters

Last Mod: 07 Ağustos 2008, 15:15
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