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Georgia Rules Out Force To Free Hostage

24 January 2005 -- Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania said today that Georgia has ruled out the use of force to free a police officer being held by separatists in the South Ossetia region.

Zhvania said on Georgian television that "some forces" are trying to provoke an armed confrontation, but the Georgian government rules out using force in this situation and will instead pursue diplomatic and political means.

Zhvania reiterated that Georgia will not exchange a South Ossetian murder suspect in Georgian custody for the police officer.

At least 11 South Ossetians are reportedly still being held by ethnic Georgians who seized them in retaliation for the abduction of the police officer last week.

The separatists holding police major Lado Chalauri are said to have demanded that up to three South Ossetians being held in Georgian jails be freed in exchange for his release.

Russia's Foreign Ministry has called on all sides to immediately free all innocent hostages.