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Russia's Medvedev Discusses Georgia Conflicts with Separatist Leader

Russian President Dmitri Medvedev Thursday met with the leader of Georgia's breakaway republic of Abkhazia, which is at the center of rising tensions in the region.

In a statement, the Kremlin said Mr. Medvedev and Abkhazia's separatist president, Sergei Bagapsh, discussed issues related to settlement of the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict.

The statement said Mr. Bagapsh stressed the vital role of Russian peacekeepers in the region and thanked the Russia for supporting Abkhazia's people with their socio-economic and humanitarian problems.

Georgia has accused the Russian forces of supporting the separatists, charges Moscow has denied.

The Georgian-Abkhazian issue is expected to come up at a two-day summit of Russian and European Union leaders that begins Thursday, in the Siberian town of Khanty-Mansiysk.

Fighting broke out in Abkhazia and another breakaway region, South Ossetia, after they declared independence from Georgia in the 1990s. Russia sent peacekeepers to both areas.

On Wednesday, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili held separate meetings in Berlin with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and German Chancellor Angela Merkel that included talks on the conflict.

Georgian authorities insist they will bring both Abkhazia and South Ossetia back under central government control.

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