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Russian forces pull back from western Georgia
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Russian forces withdrew from positions near the Black Sea port of Poti and other positions in western Georgia on Saturday a month after a military conflict in the Caucasus country.

Russian troops and armored vehicles pulled back from two posts near Poti and three others in nearby areas, local news reports said.

A total of 17 armored vehicles and trucks were withdrawn, and Georgia has taken over control of the vacated posts, the Caucasus Press news agency said.

Russia's Foreign Ministry confirmed the troops withdrawal from western Georgia, which came in line with a new agreement brokered by French President Nicolas Sarkozy last week.

Under the new deal backed by the European Union (EU), 200 EU observers will be deployed in Georgia by Oct. 1, and Moscow will withdraw its forces from other areas of Georgia except the breakaway provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia within 10 days after the EU monitors are in place.

In an incident indicating how tense the area remains, Georgia's Interior Ministry said a Georgian policeman was killed Saturday after "Abkhaz separatists opened fire" at a police post near Abkhazia.

That followed the death three days ago of another Georgian policeman who was fatally shot near Russian checkpoint close to South Ossetia. Russia denied involvement in the shooting.

Georgia rolled in troops to retake breakaway South Ossetia in early August, triggering a Russian military surge that routed the Georgian forces.

More than 300 Georgians were killed in the five-day conflict, Georgian authorities say.

Russia, which has withdrawn the bulk of its troops under an Aug. 12 ceasefire deal brokered by Sarkozy, says its troops remaining in Georgia are peacekeepers allowed in the deal.

Moscow has also been at odds with the EU over where the 27- nation bloc's monitors are to be deployed later this month.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said international monitors will be deployed in the strips of land surrounding South Ossetia and Abkhazia, while the EU said they should have the right to enter the two territories.

Russia has said it will keep a total of 7,600 troops in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

(Xinhua News Agency September 14, 2008)

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