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Report: Pacific Island To Back Russia On Rebel Regions

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- The tiny Pacific island of Nauru has pledged to recognize two Russian-backed rebel regions in exchange for financial aid from Moscow, the "Kommersant" newspaper reported today, citing Nauru's foreign minister.

Russia has been trying to secure international recognition for the regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which most of the world regards as part of Georgia, after crushing a Georgian assault on South Ossetia in a five-day war last year.

After the war, Russia recognized the regions as independent states but so far only Venezuela and Nicaragua have followed suit.

Russia's respected "Kommersant" daily said Moscow had now persuaded Nauru to also recognize the regions by promising aid to the island nation in the South Pacific.

Kieren Keke, Nauru's foreign minister, was cited by "Kommersant" as saying during a visit to South Ossetia that his nation was ready to recognize the two regions.

Nauru, an island of 21 square kilometers, gained independence in 1968 and joined the United Nations in 1999 as the world's smallest independent republic, according to the "CIA World Factbook."

Abkhazia and South Ossetia broke away from Georgia's rule after wars in the early 1990s and have run their own affairs ever since. They depend on Russia for their defenses and most of the people in both areas have Russian passports.