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Georgian Leader Vows To Restore 'Territorial Integrity'

(file photo) 20 July 2004 -- Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili says his country will take decisive steps to restore its "territorial integrity."

Speaking to the newly elected parliament of the breakaway Adjara region, Saakashvili also said he has no intention of removing Georgian troops from the separatist province of South Ossetia.

Leaders in the province say Tbilisi's withdrawal from the region is mandated by an agreement signed in Moscow last week.

Saakashvili said Tbilisi would implement "logical, principled steps" to restore Georgia's control over its restive provinces. He said Georgia would do whatever it can to avoid armed conflict.

But he said that Georgia would never allow to have territories taken away. "We have to do everything we can to ensure that there is no armed confrontation in Georgia, but if the price to be paid for this is the break-up of Georgia and [having] territories torn away from Georgia, that is a price we will never pay."

The Georgian president also accused Russian forces of helping South Ossetian separatists detain 38 Georgian peacekeepers earlier this month. South Ossetia has in the past appealed to Moscow for help in its bid for independence, which has at times strained relations between Moscow and Tbilisi.

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