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European Countries Evacuate Citizens From Georgia


European countries have begun evacuating their citizens from Georgia. One of the first countries to do so was Italy. Sabina Castelfranco reports from Rome.

The Italian government has wasted no time in evacuating its nationals from Georgia as fears mount that the fighting with Russia over the breakaway region of South Ossetia could spread.
More than 100 Italian citizens arrived in Rome from Armenia. They left Georgia Sunday on buses made available by the Italian foreign ministry's crisis unit.

Two military C-130 planes flew the evacuees to Rome. Other Italians vacationing in the southern Black Sea city of Batumi, were making their own way to Turkey. A spokesman from the foreign ministry said it was a very quick operation and a voluntary exodus.

Among those who arrived at Rome's Ciampino airport were Spanish, Dutch and Portuguese nationals. After coming off the plane, this Italian woman spoke of the situation in the Georgian capital.

She said that around Tbilisi the situation is terrible. There are villages destroyed, there are dead people and injured, and the bombing continues. Tbilisi is like an oasis, there is electricity, but there is sadness in the faces of people.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini has called for an immediate cease-fire in the conflict, which does not appear to be holding at the moment. Frattini said Georgia's territorial integrity must be respected, but he added Italy opposes the use of weapons to defend it.

He called for the European Union to come up with a common and "balanced" position on the crisis. He said Italy is telling both sides to stop, to end the acts of hostility and violence, and to worry about the population of South Ossetia.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi called Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin by telephone to express concern about a possible escalation of the conflict. He urged restraint, calling for an end to Russian operations and a resumption of dialogue.

About 50 people in a pro-Georgia demonstration marched Sunday through downtown Rome to Parliament. They denounced Russia, chanting slogans and carrying banners that read "Stop bombing in Georgia" and "Europe, Stop Russia."


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