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Merkel: Germany Supports Georgia's Territorial Intergrity


German Chancellor Angela Merkel says her country supports Georgia's territorial integrity, but she is urging that country to resolve its territorial disputes before it can move toward NATO membership.

Ms. Merkel met Wednesday in Berlin with Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili for talks that included efforts to reach a peaceful settlement of the conflict in Georgia's breakaway region Abkhazia.

Fighting broke out in Abkhazia and another breakaway region, South Ossetia, after they declared independence from Georgia in the 1990s. Russia sent peacekeepers to the two areas.

Georgia has accused the peacekeepers of supporting the separatists and Russia of trying to annex the regions, charges Moscow has denied.

Earlier today, Mr. Saakashvili met with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to discuss tensions between his country and Russia.

Separately, Georgian Reintegration Minister Temur Yakobashvili said any peace initiatives for settling the regional conflicts are "doomed to failure" unless Russia withdraws troops recently sent there and ends direct ties with the separatists.

Georgian authorities insist they will bring both Abkhazia and South Ossetia back under central government control.

Meanwhile, Abkhazian leader Sergey Bagapsh met with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin in Moscow.

The Russian foreign ministry said the two sides talked about a possible resumption of the Georgian-Abkhazian political discussion.

Mr. Bagapsh also asked Russia to tighten sea border security in the zone controlled by the Russian forces.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.


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