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Page last updated at 19:58 GMT, Monday, 7 July 2008 20:58 UK

Abkhazia 'will cut Georgia ties'

Sergei Bagapsh
Abkhaz leader Sergei Bagapsh says Georgia is behind the series of blasts

The breakaway Georgian province of Abkhazia has said it is severing all ties with the Georgian government.

The decision follows a series of blasts within the territory that the rebel leadership has blamed on Georgia.

At least four people died in an explosion which rocked a cafe on Sunday, the fifth blast in a week.

Georgia's interior ministry has denied claims the country is behind the attacks, saying such allegations are "absurd and groundless".

Abkhazia's de facto leader Sergei Bagapsh is quoted as telling Russia's Interfax news agency: "Abkhazia is ending all contacts with Georgia due to Tbilisi's policy of state terrorism."

He said Abkhazia could not fail to react to the recent series of attacks, which he called "links in the same chain".

In a separate statement, Abkhazia's foreign affairs department called on G8 leaders meeting in Japan to prevent additional "terrorist attacks" by the Georgian authorities.

Tensions

Among the four who died during Sunday's explosion in the Gali district, near the de facto border with Georgia, were a regional security official and a translator working for the UN mission.

ABKHAZIA'S BITTER WAR
BBC map showing Georgia and its breakaway regions
The Abkhaz minority demanded independence from Georgia after the collapse of the USSR in 1991
Several thousand people were killed before Georgian forces were driven out in 1993
About 250,000 Georgians were displaced by the fighting

Last week at least 10 people were injured in blasts in the city of Sukhumi and the resort town of Gagra.

Georgian officials have denied any involvement in the blasts, adding that six explosions struck both sides of the border on Sunday.

But Council of Europe Secretary General Terry Davis said he was worried by an apparent escalation in violence.

"These murders risk further aggravation of the tensions in the country, and I am very concerned that the situation may spin out of control," he said in a statement.

Abkhazia broke away from Georgia in a war in the early 1990s after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.

Although some direct transport links remain between the breakaway region and the rest of the country there is very little direct contact with the government.

Although the province has its own flag and postage stamps, it is not internationally recognised.

Georgia has offered the region significant autonomy, correspondents say, but the separatists insist they want nothing less than independence.


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