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Russia-Georgia Trade Diplomatic Barbs At UN

Russia and Georgia have opened a new front in their feud over the disputed territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Russian and Georgian envoys traded harsh words at the United Nations.

Russia asked the U.N. Security Council Tuesday to condemn Georgia's military activities in its breakaway region of Abkhazia.

Moscow's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin circulated a draft Security Council resolution calling on Georgia to withdraw its troops from Abkhazia's disputed Kodori Gorge region.

The long-simmering Russia-Georgia tensions erupted last week when Georgia detained four Russian military observers in Tbilisi, accusing them of spying. Russia responded Monday by cutting transportation links to its smaller southern neighbor.

The draft Security Council resolution circulated Tuesday extends the mandate of the Russian-led U.N. observer force in the region. It also calls on Georgia to comply with previous international obligations, and demands an end to what Churkin called "provocative acts."

"There we again are going to include very strong signals to the Georgian authorities which would impress on them that the only way to deal with the situation is to comply with existing U.N. Security Council resolutions, international arrangements, and it is imperative to refrain from further provocative actions in this area," said Vitaly Churkin.

Relations between Russia and Georgia have been strained since they were separated when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. But they are at their lowest point since the early 1990s, when Russian fighters joined separatists in Abkhazia and another breakaway province, South Ossetia.

Georgia's U.N. Ambassador Irakli Alasania Tuesday charged Russia with abusing its position on the Security Council in the dispute, and questioned the impartiality of Russian peacekeepers in the disputed territories.

"While Georgia remains committed to the peaceful diplomatic solution and implementation of agreed peace plans, these actions appear to indicate that Russia has not yet made the strategic decision to be a part of the solution rather than part of the problem," said Irakli Alasania.

The United States has urged both sides to cool their angry rhetoric. A U.S. State Department spokesman Tuesday urged Russia to restore transportation links with Georgia, and to work with leaders in Tbilisi in a "positive spirit".