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Abkhaz Separatists Reject Peace Plan


Abkhazian separatist leader Sergei Bagapsh has rejected an international plan aimed at defusing growing military tensions in two of Georgia's breakaway regions.

The separatist leader reaffirmed Abkhazian claims to independence and rejected any discussions until Georgian authorities withdraw their forces from the Kodori Gorge, the only part of Abkhazia under central government control. He spoke after meeting Friday with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in the Abkhazian city of Gali. The German minister urged continued discussions.

The three-stage plan provides guarantees that all parties refrain from the use of force, and calls for the eventual return to Abkhazia of several hundred thousand displaced ethnic-Georgians.

Thursday, after talks with Steinmeier, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili insisted that refugees will return to Abkhazia with backing from the international community.

But separatist ally Russia called the repatriation provision unrealistic.

The German minister next travels to Moscow for talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

Georgia accuses Russia of stoking tensions in Abkhazia and another breakaway region, South Ossetia.

Abkhazia and South Ossetia declared independence from Georgia in the early 1990s, sparking fighting and the dispatch of Russian peacekeepers to the regions. Georgia accuses the peacekeepers of backing the separatists and has vowed to bring both territories back under central government control.

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


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