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Abkhaz Leader Will Not Allow International Observers In Region

Abkhaz leader Sergei Bagapsh

Abkhaz leader Sergei Bagapsh

SUKHUMI -- Separatist leader Sergei Bagapsh has said he will not allow international observers to enter the breakaway Georgian region of Abkhazia, RFE/RL's Georgian Service reports.

Bagapsh told journalists on April 29 that instead of being in Sukhumi, the Abkhaz capital, United Nations and European Union observer missions should go to Georgia proper because it "is a source of international conflict."

Bagapsh said that Georgia has proved in the past 20 years to be a real threat to Abkhazia.

UN Ambassador Dieter Boden and EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus Peter Semneby both held talks with Bagapsh in Sukhumi in March.

Bagapsh added that Ukrainian and Belarusian recognition of Abkhazia's self-declared independence would be a very important step for the region, though he is unwilling to predict whether those countries will, in fact, recognize Abkhazia.

Abkhazia's independence has so far been recognized by Russia, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and the tiny island nation of Nauru.

Baghapsh also mentioned the close relations Abkhazia has with Russia and added that money spent by Russian tourists in Abkhazia has "helped fill the budget."

Meanwhile, Russia said on April 29 that it plans to increase security on the waters off of Abkhazia's coast, Russian media reported.

Aleksandr Tudakov, the head of the Russian Coastal Security Service in Abkhazia, said the four security patrol boats currently being used will be increased to eight. He said there will also be an increase in the number of guards on patrol, though he has no timetable for the new deployments.