About 70 European Union monitors have arrived in Georgia on a mission aimed at easing tensions in the war-torn Caucasus country.

They are the first contingent of an expected 300-strong unarmed EU force being sent to Georgia as part of a peace deal between Russia and the former Soviet republic, following their recent war over the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

EU officials say 22 countries are expected to participate in the force, which is made up largely of police and security officials. The observers are due to be fully deployed in Georgia by October 1.

Meanwhile, criticism is mounting inside Georgia of President Mikheil Saaskashvili's plans for political reform.

Earlier this week, Mr. Saaskashvili said his government will grant more independence to parliament and the judiciary, in a bid to expand democracy in Georgia. He said he also will expand the protection of private property and provide more funding and airtime for opposition political parties.

Former speaker of parliament Nino Burdzhanadze says the plans divert attention away from solving Georgia's crisis with Russia. Georgia's independent public defender, Sozar Subari, today denounced the Saaskashvili government, calling it "authoritarian."

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