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Rice: Russian Troops Must Leave Georgia Now


U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says Russian troops must immediately withdraw from Georgia under a cease-fire agreement.

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said at a news conference with Rice in Tbilisim Friday that he signed the cease-fire after getting "clarifications" from the French who negotiated the deal earlier in the week.

In Paris, French President Nicolas Sarkozy issued a statement saying the way is now open for a U.N. Security Council resolution that will end the crisis.

In her comments, Rice reaffirmed U.S. support for Georgia's independence, territorial integrity and democratic system.

Mr. Saakashvili said Russia had been planning its military operations since NATO put off action in April on Georgia's membership. He said a large part of Georgia remains under Russian occupation, a situation his country will never accept.

U.S. President George Bush earlier called Georgia a "courageous democracy" and said Russia must respect its sovereignty. He said a contentious relationship with the West is not in Russia's interests, and he said "bullying and intimidation" is not an acceptable way to conduct foreign policy.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel also stressed support for Georgia's territorial integrity and called Russian actions in Georgia disproportionate.

She spoke after talks in Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, who expressed doubt that residents of Georgia's breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia will ever accept being part of Georgia.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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