Georgia eyes peaceful solution to Russia dispute: president

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Georgia is ready to give up force and talk without pre-conditions in a bid to end a bitter territorial dispute with Russia, President Mikheil Saakashvili said in an interview on Monday.

"I am going to take the opportunity to commit to the non-use of force," he said in an interview with French daily Le Figaro, referring to a speech he will give to the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Tuesday.

Saakashvili recognised that this was "a controversial initiative as every country, when it is occupied, has the right and even the obligation to fight, including through military means, to defend its sovereignty," he said.

But he said that he did not want to see his country "end up like Afghanistan or Chechnya," he said.

Russian troops invaded a part of Georgia in August 2008 to push back Georgian forces who were seeking to retake control of breakaway region South Ossetia, and they still occupy 20 percent of Georgia's territory.

"We have tried everything to talk directly with the Russians. Each time we have proposed dialogue, they have refused in a fairly brutal manner," he said.

Asked about South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the two regions which declared independence with Moscow's support, Saakashvili said dialogue "need not be limited to this question because everything is linked".

© 2010 AFP

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