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Georgia: Government Offers Amnesty To Pankisi Fighters

Tbilisi, 3 August 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Georgia says it will grant amnesties to armed fighters hiding in its lawless Pankisi Gorge near the Chechen border if they turn themselves in. Georgian Security Minister Valery Khaburdzania told reporters in Tbilisi today that fighters who give themselves up will enjoy the same rights as refugees. But he said those accused of grave crimes would not be granted amnesty.

His remarks appeared aimed at easing the concerns of Russia, which has demanded that Georgia rein in Chechen rebels in the Pankisi Gorge whom Moscow says attack its troops across the border.

Khaburdzania spoke after meeting a delegation of U.S. congressmen led by Representative David Dreier (R-California) that is monitoring a U.S. military program to train Georgian troops -- in part to deal with the presence of alleged fighters in the Pankisi Gorge.

Dreier said the U.S. will continue to support Georgia and help it create a democratic society.