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Lavrov Sees No Progress in Russian-Georgian Relations; Calls Georgian Policy 'Immoral'

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said he sees no progress in relations between his country and Georgia, despite recent diplomatic efforts.

Lavrov told a year-end news conference Georgian policy toward the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia is "immoral." He accused Georgian officials of seeking what he called "a foreign patron" for that policy. Lavrov did not elaborate.

Georgia has been seeking to strengthen ties with NATO, a move the Russian foreign ministry says would harm Russian interests.

Meanwhile, Russia's state-run natural gas monopoly, Gazprom, again repeated its threat to cut off supplies to Georgia unless it agrees to pay $235 per 1,000 cubic meters in 2007 - more than double the current price.

Relations between the two countries have deteriorated sharply since Georgian police briefly arrested four Russian officers in September on spy charges.

Moscow responded by cutting transportation and postal links with Georgia. Russia also expelled scores of Georgians from Moscow and closed their businesses.

The breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia declared independence in the early 1990s, prompting fighting with Georgian forces. Georgian authorities have accused Russia of backing the separatists and have pledged to bring both areas back under central government control.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.