NATO criticises Georgia state of emergency

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BRUSSELS, Nov 8 (Reuters) NATO sharply criticised Georgia today for declaring a state of emergency and closing independent media after six days of anti-government protests, saying the move ran counter to the Atlantic alliance's values.

Separately, the European Union urged peace to be restored ''without infringing democratic principles or fundamental rights, including the freedom of the media''.

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer issued an unusually strong rebuke to a US-backed country which aspires to NATO membership in the near future.

''The imposition of emergency rule, and the closure of media outlets in Georgia, a partner with which the alliance has an intensified dialogue, are of particular concern and not in line with Euro-Atlantic values,'' he said in a statement.

De Hoop Scheffer said NATO was following events closely and with concern and he had asked NATO's Special Representative for the Caucasus to tell the Georgian foreign minister that all sides must avoid violence and respect the rule of law.

Pro-Western Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, who came to power in a ''rose revolution'' in 2003, has accused Russia of stirring trouble, expelled three Russian diplomats and sent troops into the streets to cordon off central Tbilisi.

The EU's rotating presidency urged all parties to resolve the crisis by dialogue and ''exercise the necessary restraint and refrain from using language and actions that could further deepen the political crisis.'' The EU delegation office in Tbilisi had been closed temporarily as a security precaution, a spokeswoman for the EU's executive Commission said.

REUTERS NY KP2348

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