Russia denies peacekeeping role to Georgia in S Ossetia

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Moscow, Aug 21 (UNI) Russia today reiterated that Georgia will have no future role in peacekeeping in South Ossetia.

''Only Russian Armed Forces have the right to perform a peacekeeping mission in this area of responsibility,'' the deputy chief of the Russian Army's general staff Col Gen Anatoly Nogovitsyn today said.

Col Gen Nogovitsyn said the Russian peacekeeping contingent was also continuing to function in its responsibility zone in another Georgian separatist republic, Abkhazia.

''In order to ensure security for civilians, additional peacekeeping observer posts are to be set up in the near future,'' he said.

Col Gen Nogovitsyn yesterday said Moscow would insist on giving its peacekeepers the right to carry out reconnaissance missions and on creating no-fly zones for Georgian aircraft.

He warned today that any plane flying over South Ossetia and nearby Georgian regions could ''conduct flights only with Russia's permission.'' He also said foreign observers must coordinate trips to the conflict zone with the Russian Defence Ministry.

Meanwhile, Abkhazia today sent an appeal to Russia to recognise its independence, the republic's president Sergei Bagapsh said.

Mr Bagapsh said he expected South Ossetia to send a similar request in the coming days.

In Abkhazia's capital, Sukhumi, more than 47,000 people gathered today on the central square to show support for the appeal RIA news agency reported.

Reports said Russian forces blocked the only land entrance to Georgia's main port city today, a day before Russia promised to complete a troop pullout from its ex-Soviet neighbour.

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili said Russia was thinning out its presence in some occupied towns but was seizing other strategic spots.

Mr Saakashvili called the Russian moves 'some kind of deception game.' ''The Russians are making fun of the world,'' he said.

UNI XC PD AS1856

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