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'Fierce Fighting' Breaks Out In South Ossetia

MOSCOW -- Georgian forces have started an operation to "restore constitutional order" in the breakaway province of South Ossetia, Russia's Interfax news agency has quoted a top Georgian commander as saying.

"Despite our call for peace and a unilateral cease-fire, separatists continued the shelling of Georgian villages," it quoted Mamuka Kurashvili as saying. "We are forced to restore constitutional order in the whole region."

He did not specify the action Georgia planned to take but Tbilisi does not recognize the separatist government and has pledged to restore its control over the province.

The agency quoted separatist leader Eduard Kokoity as saying his forces were confronting Georgians in the outskirts of the regional capital, Tskhinvali. "Fierce fighting is under way," he said.