U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has arrived in Georgia just
hours after a deadly firefight between Georgian troops and separatists
in a Russian-backed breakaway region.
Rice arrived in Tbilisi late Wednesday afternoon, and was set to dine with Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili.
of Rice's arrival, a senior State Department official who did not want
to be identified told reporters that unchecked conflict in the region
could lead to catastrophe. The official also said Moscow should
realize its Soviet empire is gone.
Georgian authorities, who
accuse Russia of stoking tensions in the region, say four separatists
were killed in the gun battle in the Kodori Gorge of the country's
breakaway republic of Abkhazia. Several Georgian troops were reported
Abkhazian officials confirmed the clashes but not
the fatalities. Separately, officials in Tbilisi accused four Russian
military planes of violating Georgian airspace today.
expected to use her visit to voice support for the Georgian government
and to press Russia and the separatists to back away from further
Tuesday, Russia presented a draft resolution to
the United Nations Security Council voicing deep concern over Georgia's
actions in Abkhazia and another breakaway region, South Ossetia.
and South Ossetia declared independence from Georgia in the early
1990s, sparking fighting and the dispatch of Russian peacekeepers to
the region. Georgia has insisted it will restore central government
control in the areas.
Rice is on a four-day European tour that has already taken her to Prague and the Bulgarian capital, Sofia.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.