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UN Agencies To Visit Georgia's War-Torn Rebel Area

Georgian soldiers returning to their base in Gori this week.
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) -- A group of UN humanitarian agency officials will visit a Georgian separatist enclave to assess the situation after the country's brief war with Russia last month, the United Nations said.

Russia invaded the former Soviet republic last month to thwart an attempt by the Georgian military to retake the breakaway region of South Ossetia, which, like another Georgian rebel area, Abkhazia, broke away from Tbilisi in the early 1990s.

The war left many thousands of Georgians displaced and unable to return home. The United Nations has had difficulty getting into Russian-occupied areas, though Moscow has said this was because UN officials lacked paperwork or failed to arrange their visits through proper channels.

"The objective of the mission is to gain firsthand knowledge of the humanitarian and human rights situations and needs on the ground, including the position of those displaced by the conflict and other vulnerable groups," the UN press office said in a statement.

Russia has accused Tbilisi of waging a campaign of "genocide" against South Ossetians. Georgia in turn charged Russia with supporting "ethnic cleansing" throughout South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Russian-occupied parts of Georgia outside the rebel regions, forcing ethnic Georgians to flee en masse.

Moscow has recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia, whose populations are largely ethnically distinct from Georgians, as independent states.

The mission will be led by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and will also travel to Tbilisi and Moscow.

The statement originally said the mission would visit other areas affected by the war, including the Georgian city of Gori.

But the UN issued a revised statement omitting the reference to visiting Gori and other parts of Georgia.

It was not immediately clear why the UN press office revised the statement.

The United Nations also said it also planned a "broader fact-finding mission to the region." It gave no details.