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Georgia Warns South Ossetia Over Risk Of War

16 August 2004 -- Georgia today warned its separatist region of South Ossetia over violations of a cease-fire agreement, saying any attempt at dragging its troops into large-scale military operations would meet an adequate response.

Addressing reporters in Tbilisi, Defense Minister Giorgi Baramidze said his troops were ready to repel any further attacks against ethnic Georgians living in South Ossetia.

"We will do everything possible to avoid war. It is not in the interest of the Georgian government to wage a war. We do not want war. But if war cannot be avoided, we will accept the challenge of those who want to fight us. This is Georgia, this is our country, this is our people," Baramidze said.

Baramidze made these comments following reports that two Interior Ministry troops were killed overnight while resisting a separatist attack on the ethnic Georgian village of Eredvi. South Ossetia says three of its soldiers were wounded during the shootout.

Both sides on 13 August agreed on a cease-fire that began at midnight that same day. But clashes were reported soon after, with Georgia reporting seven of its troops wounded.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov yesterday expressed his concerns, saying Georgian developments were following "a very dangerous spiral."

Georgia accuses Russia, which has peacekeepers in South Ossetia, of supporting the breakaway province which won de facto independence in the early 1990s.

(Georgian TV/Novosti-Gruziya/Civil Georgia)

For the latest news on the tensions in South Ossetia, see RFE/RL's webpage on Ossetia.