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EU Ministers Push for Cease-Fire Monitors in Georgia


European Union foreign ministers expressed support Wednesday for sending monitors to supervise a cease-fire in the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia, which Georgia claims is already being violated by Russia. Lisa Bryant has more from Paris.

Backing for European Union peacekeepers to monitor the newly agreed upon truce between Russia and Georgia came during an emergency meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, who has been shuttling between the two countries in recent days to secure a cease-fire, said the 27-member bloc was determined to act.

Kouchner says the idea of having monitors, or peacekeepers, was how Europe should conduct itself - to act on the ground and provide aid to people.

The EU meeting comes a day after President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, which holds the rotating EU presidency, secured agreement by both Russian and Georgian leaders to abide by a cease-fire after several days of fighting in the breakaway region of South Ossetia and elsewhere in Georgia.

But news reports from Georgia suggested Russian forces continued to move into Georgian territory and Georgian Foreign Secretary Eka Tkeshelashvili said Russian troops continued to attack.

"But I can confirm with confidence that horrible events are happening in Georgia since the morning," Tkeshelashvili said. "No cease-fire is actioned now so that what is the trust that we can put on the Russian side."

Despite reaching agreement on monitors Wednesday, EU members have been divided over just how to deal with Russia. European analyst Robin Shepherd has been following the crisis for London-based policy institute Chatham House.

"There are definitely clear divisions among the member states and that's primarily because member states have different policies on Russia," Shepherd said. "You've got a group of member states that are worried about its muscular approach toward foreign policy issues. Then you've got the large member states who are really more keen to have a balanced relationship with Russia."

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said he would recommend sending peacekeepers at the next EU foreign ministers meeting next month. More broadly, western nations back a multinational peacekeeping force in South Ossetia and in another Georgian breakaway province, Abkhazia, to replace Russian and Georgian troops there.

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