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OSCE Says Its Monitors Released In Georgia


TBILISI (Reuters) -- Two monitors working for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe were released after being briefly detained in a Georgian conflict zone, a spokeswoman for the body has said.

Georgia's Interior Ministry earlier said the OSCE monitors had been detained by officials from the Moscow-backed separatist region of South Ossetia.

"We have dealt with the matter with the relevant parties and the situation is now over," a spokeswoman for the OSCE said by telephone. "We will looking into the matter thoroughly."

South Ossetia's separatist administration could not immediately be reached for comment.

Since 1992, 28 military observers from the Vienna-based OSCE have been based in Georgia and conducting patrols inside South Ossetia.

But since a war last year between Russia and Georgia, the separatist authorities have denied the observers access to the region and Moscow has blocked the renewal of the mission's mandate in Georgia.

Without a new mandate, the mission will have to close its operations in Georgia by a February 18 deadline.

Greece, which holds the OSCE's rotating chairmanship, has been in talks with Russia on a compromise deal to keep the mission working.

Western governments say the OSCE presence in and around South Ossetia could be vital in helping prevent new hostilities and also in protecting civilians from persecution by rival security forces.