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US President  Appeals for End to Bloodshed in S. Ossetia


U.S. President George Bush is urging an end to the fighting in Georgia's breakaway province of South Ossetia. VOA White House correspondent Paula Wolfson reports from Beijing, where Mr. Bush is attending the Olympic Games.

President Bush says the fighting must stop.

"I am deeply concerned about the situation in Georgia," he said. "The United States takes this matter very seriously."

He says he is particularly troubled by the fact the conflict is spreading to other parts of Georgia - a reference to Russian bombings beyond the borders of South Ossetia.

"The violence is endangering regional peace," said President Bush. "Civilian lives have been lost and others are endangered."

South Ossetia's autonomous status was abolished by the Georgian government in 1990, then reinstated in 1992. The current government in Tblisi has vowed to bring it back into the fold and on Thursday launched a military operation to do just that.

But South Ossetia has strong ties to Moscow, which supports the separatist movement. When Georgia sent its forces in, the Russians responded by sending in more troops and bombers.

President Bush says all sides need to step back, stop hostilities, and work with mediators to resolve the conflict.

"Georgia is a sovereign nation and its territorial integrity must be respected," he said. "We have urged an immediate halt to the violence and a stand-down by all troops."

White House officials say President Bush re-enforced the U.S. position in separate conversations with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, and Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili. In his brief comments to reporters in Beijing, Mr. Bush called on Russia to stop bombing and start cooperating with peace efforts.

"Russia needs to support these efforts so that peace can be restored as quickly as possible," he said.

Russian officials claim 1,500 lives have been lost and tens of thousands have fled to bordering North Ossetia in Russia.

The feud between Russia and Georgia has pitted two former Soviet Republics against each other, drawing international concern.

The United States, the European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe announced Friday they were sending a delegation to Georgia in hopes of securing a cease-fire.

The U.N. Security Council is expected to meet again Saturday to discuss the crisis.

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