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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 August, 2004, 09:24 GMT 10:24 UK
Fighting intensifies in S Ossetia
South Ossetian special forces
South Ossetian fighters want independence from Georgia
Artillery and mortar fire has rocked Georgia's breakaway republic of South Ossetia again, scuppering efforts to enforce a ceasefire.

A ceasefire deal reached last Friday has now been violated for five nights in a row, as pro-Russian South Ossetian separatists battle Georgian troops.

Interfax news agency said residential areas of the regional capital Tskhinvali came under fire on Thursday.

South Ossetia broke away from Georgia in 1992 following an 18-month conflict.

The Georgian authorities say their troops killed eight South Ossetian fighters in the latest overnight fighting. The claim has not been confirmed.

Earlier, at least six Georgian troops were reported killed.

Population: About 70,000
Capital: Tskhinvali
Major languages: Ossetian, Georgian, Russian
Major religion: Orthodox Christianity
Currency: Russian rouble, Georgian lari
Just 15 minutes before the latest eruption of fighting, a commission charged with securing peace in South Ossetia announced what it called significant new steps to revive the ceasefire.

The joint control commission was vague on the details, but their peace plan focuses on rooting out a supposed rebel force of fighters from Georgia, the BBC's Sarah Rainsford reports from Tskhinvali.

South Ossetian officials claim these troops are firing on both sides in the conflict, trying to provoke all-out war.

Georgia denies any such rebels exist. It has no doubt its positions are being attacked by South Ossetian soldiers.

An official with the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) also told the BBC his monitors had no evidence of any Georgian rebel element at all.

Plans are being made for an urgent meeting between the South Ossetian President, Eduard Kokoiti, and Georgia's Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania.

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili had said the international community should take an active role in talks.

He called on world leaders to hold a conference on the future of South Ossetia and send Western peacekeepers to the region.

Heavy shelling batters S Ossetia
17 Aug 04  |  Europe
Fighting rages in South Ossetia
16 Aug 04  |  Europe
Georgia wants Russian troops out
13 Aug 04  |  Europe
Georgia reports deaths in clash
12 Aug 04  |  Europe
Regions and territories: South Ossetia
13 Jun 04  |  Country profiles
Timeline: Georgia
14 Jul 04  |  Country profiles

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