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Russia Vetoes Extending UN Mission in Georgia; Mission to Cease Operations

Russia used its veto power on Monday evening in the U.N. Security Council to block a resolution that would have extended the mandate of the U.N. Observer Mission in Georgia for another two weeks. The extension was needed to give council members time to negotiate a plan for the mission's future. But, the mission will expire in a few hours.

After more than 15 years in Georgia, the U.N. Observer force will shut down at midnight Monday New York time (0400 UTC Tuesday).

Without a mandate from the Security Council, the 150 military observers and police, as well as their support staff, will cease monitoring operations along the Georgia-Abkhazia boundary and in the Kodori Gorge.

The vote in the Security Council was 10 in favor, one veto and four abstentions. The abstentions came from China, Vietnam, Libya and Uganda.

After the vote, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters that his delegation regretted that it could not support the resolution. But he said Russia had offered an alternative that was rejected by some council members.

"We also regret that it came to that," said Vitaly Churkin. "But we not only regret that, but we also showed a practical alternative. A truly technical rollover without political landmines. I read it in the council - a brief resolution, which could have been passed today to allow four more weeks for additional conversations on a big resolution on the future of the U.N. mission in the area. Unfortunately, the politicized approaches of our colleagues did not allow that to happen."

The United States, France, Britain, Austria, Turkey and Croatia are among the Security Council members who are part of the so-called "Group of Friends of Georgia." They voted in favor of the two week extension that would have maintained the status quo.

Germany heads that group. Ambassador Thomas Matussek spoke after the vote on their behalf, saying there was one overwhelming reason the group could not reach agreement with Russia.

"Because there was one issue on which we could not compromise, and that is the territorial integrity of Georgia within internationally recognized borders," said Thomas Matussek. "Let me tell you, we regret that. But we try to be engaged in that and we will never compromise this territorial integrity."

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson said in a statement that Mr. Ban would instruct his special representative in Georgia to take all measures required to cease the mission's operations, effective Tuesday.