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Saturday, October 23, 1999 Published at 00:02 GMT 01:02 UK

World: Europe

Georgia fears all-Caucasus war

The Georgian army is already preparing for the worst

By BBC Moscow correspondent Robert Parsons

As the Russian offence continues, Russia's southern neighbours are concerned that the conflict could spread to their territories.

Battle for the Caucasus
Georgia is one of them and it is racked by ethnic conflicts.

War is no stranger to the Georgian border regions - and more might be just around the corner.

See Robert Parson's report from Georgia's border region
The border region is also on the natural escape route for Chechens trying to flee from the Russian bombs.

The border stretches for more than 80km (50 miles), a warren of mountainous roads and paths, and Russia cannot control it.

[ image: Robert Parsons at the Georgian-Chechen border]
Robert Parsons at the Georgian-Chechen border
It is a potential flashpoint that could suck Georgia into a conflict that could engulf the whole region.

Russian planes have already bombed border villages. Mistakes, says Russia - blackmail, say many Georgians.

Russia accuses Georgia of turning a blind eye to across-the-border arms smuggling.

And it demands that Russian soldiers are allowed to control the border.

Georgia feels threatened. The Georgian army might be tiny but it already preparing for the worst.

The Russian offensive in Chechnya could have disastrous consequences in a region full of unresolved conflicts.

In Georgia they are looking forward to winter. Soon, the snow will make the mountain passes impenetrable.

Georgia hopes it will seal it off from Chechnya's troubles.

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