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Council Of Europe Monitor Rejects Georgia's Bias Allegations

A Council of Europe monitor has rejected criticism that his meeting with a South Ossetian official in the breakaway region's Moscow mission indicates bias, RFE/RL's Georgian Service reports.

David Wilshire, a British lawmaker and monitor for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), met on April 20 with a South Ossetian envoy at South Ossetia's Moscow legation.

The Georgian Foreign Ministry said the meeting venue indicates Wilshire's partiality on issues resulting from the Russian-Georgian war in August 2008. It said Wilshire is biased in favor of South Ossetia and Georgia's other breakaway region, Abkhazia.

Wilshire rejected the bias charge in an interview with RFE/RL.

"I met a South Ossetian in an office, as far as I'm concerned. It's not an embassy because there isn't a country," Wilshire says. "[Any] suggestion that my talking to a South Ossetian indicates recognition of something that the Council of Europe does not recognize is absolute nonsense."

Wilshire was in Moscow to discuss with Russian officials an upcoming PACE session focusing on the aftermath of the August war. The session is scheduled for April 28.

Wilshire emphasized his desire to hear from all sides as a PACE monitor.

"I respect the right of anyone to have their views. The Georgians clearly don't like what I've done -- that's their privilege, and in a democracy one must respect their right to say it," he said. "And I'm pleased that they say it in public rather than in private. Because if it's in public, one can comment on it."

Wilshire said he did not wish to offend Georgian officials by meeting in the Moscow mission, which South Ossetian officials consider an embassy.

South Ossetia and Abkhazia have been recognized as independent by Russia, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Nauru.