Breakaway Ossetians set tough demands

Aug. 13, 2004 at 11:05 AM
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MOSCOW, Portugal, Aug. 13 (UPI) -- The head of the breakaway region of South Ossetia said Friday no meeting with Georgia's prime minister was possible until all Georgian troops are withdrawn.

"Taking stock of the meeting, (South Ossetia's leader) Eduard Kokoiti noted that the negotiating process should resume while it is still possible," a statement said. "However, the president reiterated that a meeting with (Georgian Prime Minister) Zurab Zhvania is out of the question until Georgia withdraws all its military forces, which are illegally present in South Ossetia and ceases its provocations and shelling of Ossetian population centers." The statement was reported by Russia's RIA news agency.

South Ossetia is located along the Georgia-Russia border and has enjoyed relative independence since the early 1990s. The region wants independence or to be governed by Moscow.

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili Thursday vowed to stop the "ethnic cleansing" of Georgians in the region where violence has been on the rise following clashes between Georgian troops and rebel forces.

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