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    US Repeats Demand for Russia to Honor Cease-fire With Georgia

    The Bush administration says Russia must fully comply with a cease-fire signed with neighboring Georgia. VOA's Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where top administration officials spoke at length about the future of U.S.-Russian relations in the wake of Russia's continued military presence inside Georgia, a potential future member of NATO.

    Last week saw Russian troops push into Georgian territory beyond the separatist province of South Ossetia. A cease-fire signed Saturday between Moscow and Tbilisi calls for both nations to pull their armed forces back to positions held before the conflict erupted earlier this month.

    France, which helped broker the accord, says it has received assurances from Russian President Dmitri Medvedev that Russian troops will begin to withdraw from Georgia at midday Monday.

    US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says Russia must follow through on its promise.

    "Yet again, the Russian president has given his word, and I hope this time he will honor it," Rice said.

    Rice was speaking on the Fox News Sunday television program. She said Moscow will pay a price on the world stage for its actions.

    "There have already been significant consequences for Russia," Rice said.  "Any notion that Russia was the kind of responsible state [that is] ready to integrate into international institutions of the political, diplomatic, security, economic kind - this forward-leaning, modern Russia - that reputation is, frankly, in tatters."

    Russia's military actions have further chilled what many had regarded as already-fraying relations between Washington and Moscow. Some, including Republican presidential contender John McCain, have suggested expelling Russia from the Group of Eight industrialized nations.

    Secretary Rice said the United States will make no rash decisions regarding the future of relations between Washington and Moscow, nor whether, from the U.S. perspective, Russia merits continued membership in the G-Eight. That cautious approach was echoed by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who spoke on ABC's This Week program.

    "We, clearly, have seen a side of Russia that we had hoped was a thing of the past, and we obviously are going to have to re-evaluate the direction of the strategic relationship with Russia going forward," Gates said. "And, that depends to a considerable extent on their behavior from this point forward."

    While pledging to withdraw from Georgia, Russia has indicated it will likely retain some troops in South Ossetia, where Russian forces have operated as peacekeepers for years.

    Moscow has been alarmed by the desire of former Soviet republics and client states to join NATO and expand military ties with the West.  During a visit to Tbilisi Sunday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Georgia was on track for NATO membership.


     

     

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