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Bush Calls for Withdrawal of Russian Troops from Georgia


U.S. President George Bush says Russia may be violating the terms of a cease-fire in Georgia less than a day after agreeing to stop the fighting in the former Soviet republic. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, the president spoke amid reports that a Russian military convoy had pressed deep into Georgian territory.

President Bush says he expects Russia to meet its commitment to cease all military activities in Georgia and withdraw all forces that have entered the country in recent days.

"We are concerned about reports that Russian units have taken up positions on the east side of the city of Gori, which allows them to block the east-west highway, divide the country, and threaten the capital of Tbilisi," the president said. "We are concerned about reports that Russian forces have entered and taken positions in the port city of Poti, that Russian armed vehicles are blocked access to that port, and that Russia is blowing up Georgian vessels."

Flanked by his secretaries of State and Defense in the White House Rose Garden, President Bush said the United States stands with Georgia's democratically-elected government.

"We insist that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia be respected. Russia has stated that changing the government of Georgia is not its goal," he said. "The United States and the world expect Russia to honor that commitment."

Mr. Bush spoke earlier with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and with French President Nicolas Sarkozy who negotiated the ceasefire. That deal calls for the withdrawal of forces from the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and free access for humanitarian aid workers.

The president says he is sending Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Paris for further consultations with President Sarkozy and on to Tblisi where Mr. Bush says Rice will personally convey America's unwavering support for Georgia's government.

"On this trip, she will continue our efforts to rally the free world in the defense of a free Georgia," Mr. Bush said.

The president says the U.S. military will lead a humanitarian mission to Georgia and he expects Russia to honor its commitment to ensure that all lines of communication and transport, including seaports, airports, roads, and airspace remain open for the delivery of assistance and for civilian transit.

Mr. Bush says Russia's actions raise serious questions about its intentions in Georgia and in the region. The president says the United States has previously supported Russian efforts to better integrate into the diplomatic, political, economic, and security structures of the 21st century.

"Now, Russia is putting its aspirations at risk by taking actions in Georgia that are inconsistent with the principles of those institutions," President Bush said. "To begin to repair the damage to its relations with the United States, Europe, and other nations, and to begin restoring its place in the world, Russia must keep its word and act to end this crisis."

The United States has called for a emergency meeting of NATO foreign ministers to discuss the crisis. NATO says the meeting could take place early next week and that Russia will not attend in its observer status.

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