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Bush Warns Russia: Breakaway South Ossetia, Abkhazia Are Part of Georgia


U.S. President George Bush is again warning Russia that it must not lay claim to the breakaway Georgian republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. VOA White House correspondent Scott Stearns reports, the Bush administration says Russian troops are beginning to withdraw from Georgia but not fast enough.

For nearly two weeks, President Bush says the world has watched a young democracy in Georgia under siege following a Russian invasion that he says was a disproportionate response to a long-simmering conflict in the breakaway republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Mr. Bush told a convention of American military veterans meeting in Florida that those republics are part of Georgia's internationally-recognized borders.

"The United States of America will continue to support Georgia's democracy. Our military will continue to provide needed humanitarian aid to the Georgian people. South Ossetia and Abkhazia are part of Georgia, and the United States will work with our allies to ensure Georgia's independence and territorial integrity," he said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov last week said Georgia can forget about getting back the separatist regions as Russian President Dmitri Medvedev met with the self-declared leaders of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Lawmakers in Abkhazia Wednesday voted to formally ask Russia to recognize their independence. Russian lawmakers are set to debate the measure early next week.

President Bush says there is no room for debate on the matter of Georgian territory and Georgia's borders should command the same respect as every other nation's.

He reminded the meeting of the Veterans of Foreign Wars that Georgia is an ally in the broader fight against terrorism.

"Georgia has also sent troops to Afghanistan and Iraq to help others realize the blessings of liberty. Georgia stood for freedom around the world," Mr. Bush said. "Now the world must stand for freedom in Georgia."

White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe says the United States has seen initial signs that Russia is withdrawing some of its forces from Georgia. But he told reporters on Air Force One that both the size and pace of the withdrawal needs to increase sooner rather than later, adding that he does not think Russia troops need any more additional time.

At the United Nations Tuesday, Russia rejected a Security Council resolution demanding an immediate troop withdrawal. In his latest pledge, President Medvedev said the Russian withdrawal will be completed by Friday.

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