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Georgian Move May Stoke Tensions: Russia
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Russia warned on Wednesday the Georgian parliament's call for its peacekeepers to quit the breakaway region of South Ossetia could stoke tensions there and urged the Georgian government to act responsibly.

The Georgian parliament passed a resolution earlier demanding the withdrawal of Russian peacekeepers in South Ossetia and their replacement by an international contingent. The parliament gave a negative assessment of the performance of duties by the Russian peacekeepers but did not set a deadline for their pullout.

The resolution is "a matter of concern to Moscow" as it "follows the anti-Russian campaign that has been gaining momentum in Georgia over the past several weeks and demands the removal of existing mechanisms and the legal framework for the resolution of the Georgian-Ossetian conflict," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

"This decision could escalate tensions in the conflict zone," the ministry said, calling on the Georgian government to "treat this issue with responsibility and restraint."

Russian peacekeepers have been deployed in the region since the early 1990s, when South Ossetia broke away from Georgia's central government. President Mikhail Saakashvili has vowed to bring South Ossetia and another breakaway region, Abkhazia, back under Tbilisi's control.

In October, the Georgian parliament passed a resolution that criticized Russian peacekeepers in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

A spokesman of the Russian Defense Ministry said shortly after the vote that Russian peacekeepers will continue their mission in the region under their mandate.

"Georgia has the right to raise the question of the prospects of the peacekeeping operation in South Ossetia. However, it should be settled with due account for all legal procedures," Vyacheslav Sedov was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying.

(Xinhua News Agency February 16, 2006)

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