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Russia Vetoes Deal On OSCE Monitors In Georgia

VIENNA (Reuters) -- Russia has vetoed a plan for keeping monitors from Europe's top security and human rights watchdog in Georgia, insisting on terms that drove home its view of breakaway South Ossetia as an independent territory.

Moscow sent in troops to repel Georgia's move to retake South Ossetia in a war last August, then blocked an extension of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's observer mandate in Georgia on its December 31 expiry.

The OSCE must be out of Georgia by June 30 unless current chairman Greece can forge agreement among its 56 member states including Russia and Georgia to renew the mission.

On May 11, Greece floated a revised plan omitting mention of Georgia or South Ossetia, skirting the hot issue of the rebel region's status, while stipulating free movement for monitors across the August cease-fire line.

This approach signaled that Russia's demand for recognition of South Ossetia as an independent state should be left to separate "status" talks in Geneva, while accommodating the insistence of Georgia and its Western allies on Georgian territorial integrity and a single OSCE mission in the country.

But Russia turned down the compromise and answered with its own version, making clear that Moscow deemed the territory to be no longer part of Georgia.

Moscow's version, obtained by Reuters from diplomats in the confidential consultations, crossed out references to "free and unimpeded contact and movement" across the truce line.

It added that such movement must be agreed with "relevant authorities" -- meaning the rebels and Russians -- while monitors based in South Ossetia and in state-controlled Georgia would be under separate commands.

Russia's response dashed hopes for agreement by a top OSCE committee on May 13. A deal would have sent the plan to the OSCE's Permanent Council ambassadors for formal adoption.