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White House Renews Appeal for End to Georgia-Russia Conflict  


The White House is making a renewed appeal for an end to the bloody conflict between Georgia and Russia over the Georgian breakaway province of South Ossetia, and accusing Russia of 'disproportionate' action. VOA's Paula Wolfson reports from Beijing, where U.S. President George Bush is pushing for a cease-fire.

President Bush is engaging in some personal diplomacy in an effort to halt the bloodshed and bring all parties to the negotiating table.

The latest move: a call to French President Nicholas Sarkozy, who holds the six-month rotating presidency of the European Union.

A White House spokesman says the U.S. and French presidents share the same position on the escalating conflict between Georgia and Russia over South Ossetia. He says both want to see a cease-fire, disengagement and respect for Georgia's territorial integrity.

Their conversation follows calls Saturday by Mr. Bush to Russian President Dmitri Medvedev and Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili. Mr. Bush also discussed the matter in person Friday with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, when both attended a reception in Beijing.

White House officials will not provide details of the Bush-Putin conversation. But they leave no doubt they are extremely concerned about Russia's actions, and are waiting to see what Moscow will do next.

A senior member of President Bush's National Security Council says the administration does not want to jump to conclusions. But Jim Jeffrey leaves no doubt the White House is concerned that Russia wants to expand the conflict even further.

Georgia sent troops into South Ossetia on Friday to try to bring the breakaway province back under its control. Russia supports the separatists and has peacekeepers in the region. And when Georgia made its move, it sent in more troops and eventually launched bombing runs outside the borders of South Ossetia. On Sunday, Georgia said it had withdrawn its troops from South Ossetia's capital as a goodwill gesture.

Jeffry told reporters traveling with President Bush in Beijing that the Russian response has been disproportionate. He said if it continues, there is the potential for a significant long-term impact on U.S.-Russia relations.

White House press secretary Dana Perino makes clear the Bush administration is doing all it can to prevent that scenario. She says the White House is trying to get all the parties back to the negotiating table and end the bloodshed.

"I think what we need to do right now is continue to work to solve this peacefully, and if it is true the Georgians have started pulling out, that might get us to where we need to be to start the cease-fire," said Perino.

Perino says the main U.S. objective is to prevent further loss of life. She says too many people have already died because of the dispute - both troops and civilians.

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