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Saakashvili Accuses Russians of Imperialism - 2004-07-13

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili has accused some officials in Russia of maintaining imperialistic dreams about taking over his country. The Georgian leader spoke out on the topic during an official visit to Britain.

President Saakashvili held talks in London Tuesday with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw to analyze the military tensions between Russia, Georgia and the breakaway region of South Ossetia.

Mr. Saakashvili told a news conference the situation has been aggravated by some Russian officials who, he says, are harboring imperialistic designs on his country.

"Some elements in Moscow are carrying out some aggressive plans, and not only plans, but they are carrying out aggressive actions and these are the people who have not dropped their imperial dreams and ambitions," he said.

He also accused commanders of Russian peacekeeping forces in the breakaway Russian-speaking enclave of South Ossetia of arming local rebels.

For his part, Foreign Secretary Straw said Britain is doing what it can to mediate a peaceful solution.

"This is a sensitive issue for both sides and what we are supporting is efforts to resolve the issues of bilateral tension between Russia, an independent and sovereign country, and Georgia, an independent sovereign country, in a peaceful and sensible way," he said.

Tensions flared in South Ossetia in May when Georgian troops entered the region, which has been effectively independent since 1992.

In recent days, South Ossetian forces have detained several Georgian policemen, Georgia has seized Russian rockets and trucks, and there have been incidents of gunfire and border blockades.

The Russian defense minister, Sergei Ivanov, who is also visiting London, told a security conference Tuesday the situation in South Ossetia has become "volatile and explosive."