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Georgian, Russian Officials Pledge To Diffuse Tensions

10 August 2004 -- The Russian and Georgian defense ministers promised today to cooperate in a search for a peaceful solution to the problems created by separatists in the Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov and his Georgian counterpart Georgii Baramidze met in Moscow, where Baramidze is on a three-day visit. Afterward, Baramidze praised Russia for what he called "Russia's sincerity" in seeking negotiated settlements.

Baramidze said on Russian radio after the talks that Georgia is prepared to fight to regain central government control of South Ossetia. He said Georgia prefers negotiations, however, and will do all in its power to avoid armed conflict.

Earlier today, Georgian forces exchanged fire with South Ossetian separatists for several hours. The Georgian Defense Ministry said no injuries were reported.

South Ossetia and Abkhazia both seceded from central government control in the early 1990s. Georgian officials say they are determined to regain authority over both regions.