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Shevardnadze says Direct Talks With Abkhazian Leaders Possible

Tbilisi, July 8 (RFE/RL) -- Georgia says it is ready to meet with leaders of the secessionist region Abkhazia.

Speaking on Georgian state radio today, President Eduard Shevardnadze said "conditions for bilateral talks have now emerged."

News reports say that separatist leader Vladislav Ardzinba has agreed to come to Tbilisi for direct talks with Shavardnadze. Georgia's deputy Security Minister Avtandil Ioseliani said last week that Ardzinba told him he was willing to settle the conflict and consider himself a Georgian citizen.

Shevardnadze said a meeting of the UN Security Council due to consider the Abkhazian conflict on Friday could boost a peace settlement. he also said the re-election of Russian President Boris Yeltsin created "a perspective for speeding up...settlement."

Separatists pushed Georgian federal troops from Abkhazia in 1993. Tbilisi has offered Abkhazia broad autonomy if it remains part of Georgia, but separatist leaders have demanded full independence.