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Georgia Government Accused of Harder Stance on Breakaway Region - 2002-03-22


The leader of Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia said Georgia has been taking a harder line against his enclave in recent weeks.

Anri Dzhergeniya told reporters in Moscow Thursday that Tbilisi has toughened its stance since last month's announcement that U.S. special forces will be training Georgian troops to hunt down terrorists.

The Abkhazian leader warned a new conflict in his region might flare up again soon, and said it could draw in both Russia and the United States.

Mr. Dzhergeniya met with officials in Russia's Foreign Ministry and with deputies in the State Duma.

Abkhaz officials are trying to distinguish their region, on Georgia's western Black Sea coast, from the Pankisi Gorge in northeastern Georgia where, according to U.S. officials, international terrorists have taken refuge.

Mr. Dzhergeniya said his region has nothing to hide and is ready to open its doors to military experts, international observers or United Nations officials any time.

Meanwhile, the head of the Duma's international affairs committee, Dmitry Rogozin, called on Russia to withhold oil and gas from Georgia to keep the government from escalating the conflict with Abkhazia.

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