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G-7 Industrial Powers Condemn Russian Recognition of Georgian Regions

Foreign Ministers of the Group of Seven major industrial powers Wednesday issued a joint condemnation of Russia's recognition of two breakaway Georgian regions as independent. It said the Russian action on South Ossetia and Abkhazia calls into question its commitment to the peace and security of the Caucasus region. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.

The strongly-worded ministerial statement of the economic powers condemns the recognition move as a violation of Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and says it is contrary to U.N. Security Council resolutions supported by Russia itself.

The G-7 grouping - made up of the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Britain and Japan - also deplored what it said was Russia's excessive use of force in Georgia and its continued occupation of parts of that country.

The foreign ministers said they unanimously call on Moscow to implement the six-point Georgia peace plan brokered by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and in particular to return its forces to the pre-conflict lines of August 6.

The statement reflected a growing rift between the G-7 and Russia, which has been included in summit meetings and other activities of the big-power grouping in recent years in a broader G-8 framework.

There have been calls by political figures in the United States and in Europe to expel Moscow from the grouping because of its actions on Georgia, though Wednesday's statement referred to Russia as "our fellow G-8 member."

Earlier, State Department Deputy Spokesman Robert Wood called on Moscow to roll-back what he termed the unacceptable recognition action.

Wood also urged Russia to cooperate in probing alleged human rights abuses in South Ossetia, including an ethnic-cleansing charge raised Wednesday by the Tbilisi government:

"We've seen reports that there are atrocities being committed against civilians, and we want to call on the Russians to allow a credible investigation to take place of reports that atrocities have been committed by both sides," he said. "Obviously these types of reports are of serious concern and we want to make sure that the international community is able to investigate these charges."

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, just back from a Middle East trip, was to discuss the Georgian situation at the White House late Wednesday with President Bush.

The president, who spoke by telephone with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili on Tuesday, is sending Vice President Dick Cheney to Georgia next week in a show of support for the Tbilisi government.

Mr. Cheney, in a speech to armed forces veterans Wednesday in Phoenix, called Russian actions in Georgia an "unjustified assault."

Moscow says it intervened only after Georgian forces tried to take over South Ossetia, which has resisted control by the Tblisi government since the former Soviet republic's independence in 1991.

Russia has had a peacekeeping presence in South Ossetia since a previous conflict in the 1990s. It is not being asked to remove those forces under the six-point cease-fire plan, which instead calls for a return to the status quo as of August 6 ,the day before Georgian troops entered.