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Abkhaz Rivals Seek Russian Mediation

2 November 2004 -- Abkhaz officials say the two rivals for leadership of Georgia's breakaway Abkhazia region are in Moscow today in what seems to be a Russian effort to sort out the chaos left by an inconclusive election last month.

Sergei Bagapsh, the rival to Moscow-backed candidate Raul Khadzhimba, was officially declared the winner of the 3 October poll. But he has failed to convince officials to let him take up the reins of power in the Black Sea territory, which won de facto independence from Georgia in a 1992-93 conflict.

Khadzhimba says the poll was fraudulently conducted and wants new elections. Bagapsh has dismissed the call for a new election as illegal. The dispute has left a power vacuum in a key part of the strategically crucial South Caucasus region.