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Page last updated at 21:20 GMT, Thursday, 28 August 2008 22:20 UK

Putin blames US for Georgia role

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin
Mr Putin said US citizens were in the area during the conflict

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has accused the US of provoking the conflict in Georgia, possibly for domestic election purposes.

Mr Putin told CNN US citizens were "in the area" during the conflict over South Ossetia and were "taking direct orders from their leaders".

He said his defence officials had told him the provocation was to benefit one of the US presidential candidates.

The White House dismissed the allegations as "not rational".

Georgia tried to retake the Russian-backed separatist region of South Ossetia this month by force after a series of clashes.

Russian forces subsequently launched a counter-attack and the conflict ended with the ejection of Georgian troops from both South Ossetia and another rebel region, Abkhazia, and an EU-brokered ceasefire.

Diplomatic wrangling

Mr Putin said in the interview: "The fact is that US citizens were indeed in the area in conflict during the hostilities.

"It should be admitted that they would do so only following direct orders from their leaders."

Those claims first and foremost are patently false, but it also sounds like his defence officials who said they believed this to be true are giving him really bad advice
Dana Perino,
White House spokeswoman

Mr Putin added: "The American side in effect armed and trained the Georgian army.

"Why... seek a difficult compromise solution in the peacekeeping process? It is easier to arm one of the sides and provoke it into killing another side. And the job is done.

"The suspicion arises that someone in the United States especially created this conflict with the aim of making the situation more tense and creating a competitive advantage for one of the candidates fighting for the post of US president."

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino rejected the allegation.

"To suggest that the United States orchestrated this on behalf of a political candidate - it sounds not rational," she said.

"Those claims first and foremost are patently false, but it also sounds like his defence officials who said they believed this to be true are giving him really bad advice."

SOUTH OSSETIA & ABKHAZIA
BBC map
South Ossetia
Population: About 70,000 (before recent conflict)
Capital: Tskhinvali
President: Eduard Kokoity
Abkhazia
Population: About 250,000 (2003)
Capital: Sukhumi
President: Sergei Bagapsh

Diplomatic wrangling over Russia's actions in Georgia continued on Thursday with the Georgian parliament urging its government to cut diplomatic ties with Moscow.

Earlier, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner suggested some EU countries were considering sanctions against Russia.

Mr Kouchner insisted France had made no proposals for sanctions itself but, as current president of the EU, would aim to get consensus among all 27 countries of the bloc if sanctions were envisaged.

France has called an emergency EU summit on Monday to reassess relations with Russia.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov described talk of sanctions as the working of "a sick imagination".

Such talk was an emotional response that demonstrated Western confusion over the situation, he said.

The US has said it is now considering scrapping a US-Russia civilian nuclear co-operation pact in response to the conflict.

The White House has also announced that up to $5.75m (3.1m) will be freed to help Georgia meet "unexpected and urgent refugee and migration needs".

'Specious'

Late on Thursday, the UN held an open meeting to discuss the situation in Georgia but it descended into an angry exchange.

Russian ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, launched a scathing attack on some council members.

Vitaly Churkin. File pic
Russia's Vitaly Churkin launched an angry attack in the UN

He questioned their criticism of the use of force, asking the US representative: "Did you find any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?"

He compared council members' defence of the territorial integrity of states with what he said was a failure to do so for Serbia over Kosovo.

US deputy ambassador Alejandro Wolff said such "specious comparisons cannot detract from the facts before us".

He said Russia had invaded Georgia and was "dismembering" Georgia.

Irakli Alasania, Georgia's ambassador to the UN, said Russia's actions were "all pre-planned".

He called for swift humanitarian aid and a UN presence in upper Abkhazia.

Requests for representatives of South Ossetia and Abkhazia to participate in the formal council meeting were rejected.

Earlier on Thursday, Russia failed to get strong backing from its Asian allies over the Georgia conflict.

The Shanghai Co-operation Organisation (SCO), comprising Russia, China and Central Asian nations, met in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, and spoke of its deep concern.

The group did not follow Russia in recognising the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev insisted he had the backing of the nations over Moscow's actions.




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