Page last updated at 17:34 GMT, Friday, 28 November 2008

Saakashvili defends S Ossetia war

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili gives evidence to parliament
Mikhail Saakashvili is coming under growing pressure over the war

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili has denied seeking a green light from Washington for his country's assault on its breakaway region of South Ossetia.

Giving evidence to a parliamentary inquiry into the conflict, Mr Saakashvili also denied planning the attack months in advance.

He insisted Russia made the first move, pouring tanks and men over the border.

There was an outcry this week when Georgia's former ambassador to Moscow said Georgia started the war.

Erosi Kitsmarishvili also said Georgia believed it had received Washington's approval for its attack.

The former envoy was condemned for his comments, and was nearly physically assaulted while giving evidence to the parliamentary hearing.

'Didn't ask permission'

Mr Saakashvili said the decision to launch an assault on South Ossetia was made after nearby Georgian villages came under "heavy bombardment", and after "hundreds of [Russian] tanks and heavy vehicles" started crossing the border.

"Under these conditions, if you ask me whether Georgia had to undertake military actions against these firing positions, the answer is yes," Mr Saakashvili said.

He said: "We did not seek a green light from anyone. The decision was taken by us independently, without asking for permission from anyone."

Russia has consistently denied Georgian claims that its forces entered South Ossetia via the Roki tunnel the night before the Georgian assault.

"This is another attempt to escape responsibility for his decision to start a military operation against South Ossetia," Anatoly Nogovitsyn, the Russian army's deputy chief of staff, told the Interfax news agency.

Even Mr Saakashvili's fierce opposition critics swung behind him during the short war in August, but in recent weeks he has come under growing pressure.

Opposition parties have mounted rallies and called for early elections.

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