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Georgia: Shevardnadze Says Russian Pullout Could Spark War

Tbilisi, 30 January 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze has warned that a Russian troop pullout from the Georgian breakaway region of Abkhazia could spark another conflict there. Shevardnadze was speaking yesterday in Tbilisi following talks with Russian Security Council Secretary Vladimir Rushailo, who arrived in Georgia yesterday on a two-day visit.

Rushailo agreed with the comments by Shevardnadze, saying "the consequences of a pullout may be unpredictable and may lead to a new military escalation."

Russian forces currently control one military base in Abkhazia. They are there under a mandate from the Commonwealth of Independent States. The mandate for the force expired earlier in January.

Abkhazia declared independence in 1993, sparking a 13-month conflict with Georgian forces.