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Russia Urges Georgian Restraint Over South Ossetia

15 June 2004 -- Russia today urged neighboring Georgia to show restraint in its dispute with the separatist province of South Ossetia, saying recent actions taken by Tbilisi cannot contribute to easing tension in the region.

A Russian Foreign Ministry statement says Tbilisi overnight tried to deploy police forces in a South Ossetian area predominantly populated by ethnic Georgians. The statement says the attempt was thwarted by Russian peacekeepers deployed there.

Georgia in turn accused South Ossetia of deploying armed groups in the area. But Russian General Svyatoslav Nabzdorov, who commands peacekeeping operations in the region, dismissed the claim.

South Ossetia declared independence in the late 1980s, triggering a short but bloody war with Georgia.

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who was elected in January, has vowed to restore his country's territorial integrity.

(ITAR-TASS/Prime News/Novosti-gruziya)