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South Ossetia Seeks Permanent Russian Base, Rejects Observers

MOSCOW -- The leader of the breakaway region at the heart of the Georgia-Russia conflict said he would ask Moscow to station a military base on the territory of South Ossetia.

Asked in an interview with Reuters if he would like a permanent Russian base in the region, South Ossetian President Eduard Kokoity said: "We will ask the leadership of the Russian Federation for there to be a Russian military base on the territory of South Ossetia because Russian citizens live here."

"We will ask the Russian leadership -- it is their decision," he said.

Fighting erupted in South Ossetia after Georgia on August 7-8 tried to recapture the rebel region, sparking an international crisis as Russia mounted the biggest military deployment outside its borders since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.

International organizations such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have offered to send observers to the region.

But Kokoity, sometimes using emotional language, said he would not accept international observers in his region again.

"International observers will no longer be present on the territory of South Ossetia," Kokoity said. "We have no confidence in these international observers, in these people who corrupt the truth."

The OSCE had observers in the region until it pulled out when fighting started.

Russian-backed South Ossetia, which is not recognised internationally, broke away from central rule in a 1991-92 war.