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Saakashvili Backs Reduced Tensions With Russia

6 August 2004 -- Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has pledged efforts to reduce tensions with Russia, but says his government will remain firm in the face of possible confrontation with Moscow over breakaway Georgian regions.

Speaking after talks in Washington on 5 August with Secretary of State Colin Powell and other U.S. officials, Saakashvili told reporters: "We want to demilitarize, we want to calm things down. We want to democratize the whole region and we want to keep dialogue, dialogue with the Russians. It is very important."

Powell said the United States was ready to help the Georgian and Russian sides reduce tensions and get back to dialogue.

Saakashvili drew warnings from Russian officials after threatening this week that Georgian coast guard forces would prevent any unauthorized ships from reaching Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia along the Black Sea.

Tensions were also heightened after a Russian lawmaker's convoy was shot at during a visit to the separatist South Ossetia region.

Saakashvili has vowed to regain Georgian government control over both separatist regions.