Russia slams Bush statement on S Ossetia

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Moscow, Aug 14 (UNI) Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has slammed the statement by the US President on the fighting in Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia as based on unconfirmed reports.

''I listened to George Bush's statement and was surprised the facts he cited are untrue,'' Mr Lavrov said, reiterating earlier denials by Russian officials that Russian troops were not advancing on Georgia's capital Tbilisi.

''We understand that the US is concerned about the fate of this project, but the United States will have to choose between defending its prestige over a virtual project or real partnership which requires joint action,'' he said last night, adding but what Bush failed to mention was the arming of Georgia in recent years, including by the US, which also trained Georgian troops.

Bush said yesterday Russia must observe a ceasefire in South Ossetia and that he would send military aircraft and naval vessels with humanitarian aid to Georgia.

He also said he was alarmed by reports that Russia had blocked Georgia's Black Sea port of Poti.

Mr Lavrov said Moscow had warned Washington that it was ''a dangerous game.'' ''No mention was made about what happened on August 8, when Western leaders fell silent while Tskhinvali was shelled and bombed,'' he said, pointing out to Bush's statement.

''The Western political elite only got excited, when Russia made the decision not to abandon its peacekeepers and to prevent ethnic cleansing, sending reinforcements to carry out an operation to force Georgia to accept peace'' he said.

''There was also no mention of our efforts in recent years to broker a ceasefire deal between Tskhinvali and Tbilisi,'' he stressed.

Mr Lavrov also said Washington has to choose between cooperation with Russia and Georgian leaders who he described as a ''virtual project'' for the United States.

Meanwhile, the US secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has warned Russia of facing international isolation if it does not honour a ceasefire with Georgia.

''There is a very strong, growing sense that Russia is not behaving like the kind of international partner that it has said that it wants to be,'' Ms Rice told a news conference yesterday.

''We expect Russia to meet its commitment to cease all military activities in Georgia,'' she said, adding Washington stood firmly behind Georgia.

''As to choosing, the United States has made very clear that it is standing by the democratically elected government of Georgia,'' Ms Rice said.

UNI XC RJ DS1413

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