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Last Updated: Friday, 28 November, 2003, 19:30 GMT
Georgian separatists court Moscow
Eduard Kokoity and Aslan Abashidze
In Moscow: Eduard Kokoity and Aslan Abashidze
The leader of Georgia's separatist South Ossetia region has said he hopes it will soon become part of Russia.

Eduard Kokoity has been in Moscow for talks with the Russian government and leaders of two other self-governing regions, Ajaria and Abkhazia.

Correspondents say renewed conflict between these regions and the new Georgian Government could cause the country to break apart.

Both South Ossetia and Abkhazia fought Georgian forces in the early 1990s.

The Interfax news agency said Mr Kokoity had met Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov on Thursday, and that the Ajarian leader, Aslan Abashidze, met him on Friday.


A meeting was also scheduled between Mr Ivanov and Abkhaz Prime Minister Raul Khajimba, it said.

The agency quoted Mr Kokoity as saying that his "appeal to join Russia is now being examined".

A coalition of opposition parties took power in Georgia after weeks of popular protest led to the resignation of President Eduard Shevardnadze last week.

The opposition, whose protests were led by Mikhail Saakashvili, has said it wants a united Georgia.

Mr Abashidze has declared a state of emergency and insisted he will not co-operate with the interim government.

Ministers of the old government in Tbilisi have been continuing to hand in their resignations.

On Friday Foreign Minister Irakly Menagarishvili quit the government.

Nana Devdariani, the head of the Central Election Commission, which was strongly criticised by the opposition after the 2 November elections were marred by fraud, also resigned.

Russian peacekeepers

Earlier on Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin recommended to the Russian Parliament that the several thousand Russian troops in Abkhazia should remain there in a peacekeeping role until a settlement is achieved between its leaders and Tbilisi.

BBC regional analyst Steven Eke says the turmoil in Tbilisi has increased tensions in the three regions, where central government has had little control for about 10 years.

He says that although the three regions remain, formally, part of Georgia, the real influence belongs in Moscow.

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