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Bush Sending VP Cheney to Georgia to Underscore US Support


President Bush is sending Vice President Dick Cheney to Georgia and other countries in the region to underscore U.S. support in the wake of Russia's intervention in Georgia. U.S. officials say Russia is still not in compliance with its Georgia cease-fire obligations. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.

The Bush administration is sending the vice president and an inter-agency team of other senior officials to Georgia in the coming days in a show of U.S. support, amid what is seen here as Russian foot-dragging on its cease-fire commitments.

The Cheney mission next week will take him to Ukraine and Azerbaijan, in addition to Georgia, in a gesture of reassurance to a region unsettled by Moscow's show of force in Georgia. The vice president will also address a security forum in Italy.

The travel announcement came as Pentagon and State Department officials said Russia remained non-compliant with the cease-fire agreement obligating Russian and Georgian forces to return to the status quo of August 6, before Russia moved troops into Georgia's breakaway South Ossetia region.

State Department Deputy Spokesman Robert Wood said Russian troops remain in areas of Georgia beyond South Ossetia, which Moscow committed to vacate.

"They're still not in compliance with the cease-fire agreement. They've established a number of checkpoints near [the port city of] Poti. And we're very concerned about what Russia is not doing, and that's pulling its forces out in accordance with the cease-fire agreement," said Wood.

Wood said the clause in the truce accord allowing Moscow to maintain checkpoints beyond South Ossetia and Abkhazia, where it has had a long-time peacekeeping presence, has been obviated by the arrival of monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the OSCE.

He said 20 members of the envisaged OSCE team of 100 monitors have arrived in the area, and efforts are under way to deploy the rest. He said there should be no attempt by Russia to put up obstacles to their arrival.

On a related issue, Spokesman Wood rejected as unacceptable calls by the two houses of the Russian parliament for Moscow to recognize the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Wood said Russia needs to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia, which are enshrined in a number of international agreements to which Moscow is a party.

There was similar criticism of the non-binding Russian parliamentary action from several European governments, and by Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who said no one can legalize the annexation of Georgian territories.

The State Department said Monday an interagency team led by U.S. Undersecretary of State Reuben Jeffery arrives this week to assess Georgian post conflict reconstruction needs that officials of the Tbilisi government say could reach $2 billion.

The Pentagon meanwhile said an air and sea relief effort for Georgia continues and has now delivered more than 700 tons,nearly $20 million worth of emergency supplies. The first of three U.S. military vessels sent to Georgia, the Navy guided missile destroyer USS McFaul, arrived at Georgia's Black Sea port of Batumi on Sunday.

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