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South Ossetian Leader Discusses Extending Territory

TSKHINVALI, Georgia -- South Ossetian leader Eduard Kokoity has met with a Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) official to discuss extending the Georgian breakaway region's borders, RFE/RL's Echo of the Caucasus reports.

Kokoity met with Aleksandr Murzin, the FSB director in South Ossetia, on May 18. Kokoity said after the meeting that South Ossetia will try to include the Truso Gorge of the Kazbegi district within the breakaway region's borders because it is mainly inhabited by Ossetians. The gorge is currently in Georgia proper.

He said the extension would require the construction of a new road, which would strengthen border security in the region. Although regional boundaries in Georgia were established decades ago, Kokoity last year mentioned the possibility of expanding South Ossetia's borders.

But a South Ossetian statement on the issue did not claim any territory currently in Georgia proper.

Gairbek Salbiev, the head of the South Ossetian group Dariali, said a revision of borders is a normal historical process.

"The will to return Abkhazia and South Ossetia [to Georgian control] unites the Georgian government and opposition," Salbiev said. "This is a huge mistake. From the time of Adam and Eve, the borders have been constantly changing...[and they] will change in the future. Georgia has more serious problems than the adjustment of the South Ossetian border."

Nodar Natadze, the leader of the opposition Georgian Popular Front, said on May 18 that Russia has no right to relocate borders in South Ossetia.

"There is no necessity for Russians to be present in the [Southern Caucasus]," Natadze said. "Ossetians live in the Truso Gorge with Georgians, and this territory was always an integral part of Georgia. Raising this pseudo-issue on passing [control of] the gorge to someone else is an element of offensive Russian policy against Georgia."

Russia and three other countries have recognized South Ossetia's independence from Georgia. Russian and Georgian forces fought a brief war in South Ossetia in August 2008.

Russia has pledged hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to help develop South Ossetia, which has an estimated total population of some 60,000 people.