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French FM Strongly Urges Russia to Withdraw From Georgia


The foreign minister of France, which currently holds the presidency of the European Union, says Europe is strongly urging Russia to withdraw its troops from Georgia. Lisa Bryant reports from Paris, the comment comes on the eve of an emergency NATO meeting on the crisis.

At a news conference Monday, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner expressed frustration at what is seen as Russia's slow-paced withdrawal of its forces from Georgia, despite Moscow's claims it has begun to do so.

Kouchner said every time France phones Russia, the answer is that the troop withdrawal will begin. But he said Paris wants it to begin today. He noted that Moscow has signed onto a newly-brokered cease-fire with Georgia, and he said he hoped Russia understood that its signature must be respected.

An emergency NATO meeting begins in Brussels, Tuesday. Foreign ministers there are expected to pledge support for Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity. They are also expected to urge both sides to abide by a ceasefire agreement brokered by France last week. But they are divided on what tack to take with Russia, which sent troops into swathes of Georgian territory after clashes in the breakaway region of South Ossetia earlier this month.

Russian President Dmitri Medvedev said Russian military forces would begin pulling out by midday Monday. But Georgia at the time said it had seen no sign of troop movement.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Sunday that in a telephone call to his Russian counterpart, he had warned of "serious consequences," should Russia fail to implement the ceasefire deal. It is unclear just what those consequences may be. Mr. Kouchner said the French president may call for an emergency EU meeting on the Georgian crisis in the coming days.

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