U.S. President George Bush, citing evidence Russia may further escalate
its role in the Georgian conflict, on Monday called on Moscow to
reverse course and accept the European ceasefire plan already embraced
by the Tbilisi government. Mr. Bush called Russian actions in Georgia
unacceptable conduct in the 21st Century. VOA's David Gollust reports
from the State Department.
Mr. Bush appeared in the White House
Rose Garden after a meeting with his national security team to voice
concern Moscow may further escalate its offensive in Georgia and try to
depose the democratic government of President Mikhail Saakashvilli.
a strongly worded three-minute statement, the President expressed alarm
that Russian forces have moved beyond the zone of conflict in South
Ossetia, attacked the central town of Gori, are threatening the capital
Tbilisi, and may soon begin bombing the Tbilisi civilian airport:
these reports are accurate, these Russian actions would represent
dramatic and brutal escalation of the conflict in Georgia. These
actions would be inconsistent with assurances we have received from
Russia that its objectives were limited to restoring the status quo in
South Ossetia that existed before fighting began on August 6th," he
Mr. Bush said Russia's invasion of a sovereign neighbor
and threats to its elected democratic government are unacceptable
conduct in the 21st Century.
He said Georgia has accepted
elements of a European peace plan that Moscow had previously said it
was willing to accept including an immediate cease-fire, a withdrawal
of forces from the zone of conflict, renunciation of the use of force
and a return to the status quo of last week.
Noting the presence
of European mediators in Moscow, he said Russia must reverse its
apparent course and embrace the cease-fire plan.
He made no
specific mention of consequences if Moscow fails to do so, but
suggested that Russia's international prestige has already been badly
"Russia's action this week have raised serious questions
about its intentions in Georgia and the region. These actions have
substantially damaged Russia's standing in the world, and these actions
jeopardize Russia's relations with the United States and Europe. It's
time for Russia to be true to its word, and act to end this crisis," he
Earlier Monday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and
other foreign ministers from the Group of Seven industrial powers
endorsed the European-led mediation effort in a telephone conference
A senior State Department official, who spoke to
reporters, meanwhile said Russian responsibility for the crisis is far
greater than that of Georgia, and dismissed Russian claims it was
responding to Georgian provocations as laughable.
said the United States has airlifted members of Georgia's 2,000-member
troop contingent in Iraq back home under a long-standing commitment.
The State Department earlier rejected a Russian charge that the airlift amounts to U.S. involvement in the conflict.
senior U.S. diplomat, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European
Affairs Matthew Bryza flew to Tbilisi Monday to coordinate U.S.
contacts with the Georgian government and help facilitate mediation