Page last updated at 11:31 GMT, Friday, 15 August 2008 12:31 UK

Rice to push Georgia-Russia deal

Russian troops outside the Georgian port town of Poti
Russian forces have been seen in the Georgian port town of Poti

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has arrived in Tbilisi for talks with Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili.

Her trip - a show of US support - comes a week after fighting began between Russian and Georgian forces over the breakaway region of South Ossetia.

Ms Rice will present Mr Saakashvili with a ceasefire deal, but he says he will need a closer look before signing.

A BBC correspondent in the Georgian port of Poti says Russian forces have taken control of its naval dockyard.

Richard Galpin says he has seen an armoured personnel carrier, troop-carrying trucks and Russian helicopters in the area and that the main mission seems to be to destroy or remove Georgian military and naval equipment.

There is also a major Russian military contingent further inland near the town of Senaki and Russian forces still control Gori, which lies some 15km (10 miles) from South Ossetia and on a key route to Tbilisi, our correspondent says.

A Russian general said there had been no fighting on Friday and that Georgian and Russian troops were pulling back.

Russian deputy chief of staff Gen Anatoly Nogovitsyn also told a news conference in Moscow that the signing of a missile defence deal between the US and Poland had worsened already tense relations with the US.

He said a large depot of US-made weapons had been seized near Senaki.

The goal of this is to get a ceasefire and to get Russian forces to withdraw from the country ASAP
Condoleezza Rice
US Secretary of State

He also says Russian troops will stay in the Gori area to remove weaponry and help restore law and order.

As the diplomatic efforts continue, German Chancellor Angela Merkel will also seek a peaceful resolution when she meets Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Friday.

The US-based group Human Rights Watch has accused both sides in the conflict of killing and injuring civilians through apparently "indiscriminate attacks" on the towns of Tskhinvali, in South Ossetia, and Gori.

The crisis began when Georgia attacked South Ossetia on 7 August, sparking Russian retaliation. Scores of people have died in the fighting.


Ms Rice is to present Mr Saakashvili with the formal ceasefire agreement, which she was given by French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Thursday.

Speaking to reporters on the plane, she said she would talk to Mr Saakashvili about "clarifications" made to the document and then seek to get the formal truce in place.

"The goal of this is to get a ceasefire and to get Russian forces to withdraw from the country as soon as possible," Reuters news agency quotes her as saying.

Russian troops outside the Georgian port town of Poti
No more use of force
Stop all military actions for good
Free access to humanitarian aid
Georgian troops return to their places of permanent deployment
Russian troops to return to pre-conflict positions
International talks about future security and stability of South Ossetia and Abkhazia

After her talks in France, Ms Rice said both the US and France strongly backed Georgia's territorial integrity and accused Russia of failing to respect the ceasefire.

Mr Sarkozy, who negotiated the deal on behalf of the European Union, said France planned to submit a draft UN Security Council resolution incorporating the ceasefire agreement.

The deal includes a pledge to pull troops on both sides back to their pre-conflict positions, and a plan to begin international discussions about the future status of South Ossetia and a second breakaway region, Abkhazia.

Meanwhile, Poland announced on Thursday that it had signed a preliminary deal with the US on plans to host part of its new missile defence shield.

Russia's relations with the US may recover. Its relations with the "near abroad" are shattered forever
Stephen Thake, Valletta, Malta

Washington - which says the timing is not linked to the Georgian crisis - has always assured Moscow that the shield is to protect against long-range attacks from "rogue states" such as Iran, rather than Russia.

But, says the BBC's Jonathan Beale in Washington, the US is now likely to be less worried about Russian objections and more anxious to send signals to European allies like Poland that it is prepared to guarantee their protection.

The Georgian government, which says its action in South Ossetia followed provocation, says that 175 people, mainly civilians, have died.

Russia, which says 74 of its troops were killed, reports that more than 2,000 people died in South Ossetia, the vast majority civilians allegedly killed in the Georgian attack.

While none of the casualty figures has been verified independently, the UN refugee agency estimates some 100,000 people have been displaced.

Map of region

Globe and Mail Georgia accuses Russia of ethnic cleansing' - 2 hrs ago
Chicago TribuneU.S.-Russia ties take a sharp turn - 7 hrs ago
Moscow Times Medvedev Backs Independence Bids - 14 hrs ago
Chicago Sun-Times Russian troops scour Georgia - 14 hrs ago
CNN Shaky Cease-fire between Russia and Georgia; British Television Reporter Roughed Him Up During a Pro-Tibet Rally; Trend in Foreclosures Continues Increasing; Comedian Margaret Cho Returns to TV - 18 hrs ago
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