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Georgian Minister Issues Ultimatum To South Ossetia

22 June 2004 -- Authorities in Tbilisi today issued an ultimatum to the leadership of South Ossetia, giving them 48 hours to detain and extradite a soldier responsible for wounding an ethnic Georgian resident in the separatist province.

Georgian Interior Minister Irakli Okruashvili said failure to comply would prompt a swift response from Tbilisi. Okruashvili said he will personally lead any operation, including a special security raid, to identify the man, arrest him on the spot, and hand him over to a Georgian court.

Earlier today, a 70-year-old ethnic Georgian woman was slightly wounded by a stray bullet during a military exercise performed by South Ossetian peacekeepers deployed near the administrative border with Georgia.

Tension has been running high between Tbilisi and Tskhinvali since the Georgian government vowed to restore some kind of control over its breakaway provinces. South Ossetia has been de facto independent since the late 1980s.

(Novosti Gruziya ge/Rustavi 2 ge/Prime News ge)