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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 September, 2004, 06:43 GMT 07:43 UK
Russia threat unsettles Georgia
By Natalia Antelava
BBC, Tbilisi

View of Russian border from Pankisi Gorge
The Pankisi Gorge was a haven for Chechen militants until 2002
The US ambassador to Georgia says some international terrorists are still present in Georgia's Pankisi Gorge on the border with Chechnya.

His words echo concerns from Moscow that hostage-takers from Beslan could have infiltrated into Georgia.

Georgia shares its borders with the troubled republics of Ingushetia, Dagestan, Chechnya and North Ossetia.

The country is worried it will become the first place where Moscow will carry out its threat of preventive strikes.

Hiding places?

All the major newspapers here have been speculating on their front pages about the possibility of a Russian attack.

Both Moscow and now the US ambassador to Georgia, Richard Miles, say they believe there are international terrorists still hiding in the Pankisi Gorge on the border with Chechnya.

Russia's Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, has also said that he does not exclude links between Georgia's breakaway province of South Ossetia and the events in Beslan.

And the Russian media alleges that one of the hostage-takers from Beslan is hiding in the Kodori Gorge, in the country's other breakaway province of Abkhazia.

For its part, Tbilisi blames Russia for supporting these breakaway states.

Just last week, Russia launched a new train service between Moscow and Sukhumi, the capital of Abkhazia.

Officials in Tbilisi are adamant that no Chechens have crossed into Georgia and that the borders along the snow-peaked Caucasus mountains are under full control.

The question, they say, is whether Russia will choose to believe them.


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