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Bush says breakaway provinces are part of Georgia

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Posted: August 20, 2008 1:25 p.m.
Updated: September 4, 2008 5:00 a.m.
Bush says breakaway provinces are part of Georgia

President Bush is greeted by Commander-in-Chief of the Veterans of Foreign Wars George Lisicki as he is introduced prior to addressing the VFW's national convention, Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2008, in Orlando, Fla.


    ORLANDO, Fla. — President Bush, pushing back against claims by Russia, said Wednesday the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia are part of pro-Western Georgia and that Washington will work with allies to insure Georgia’s independence and territorial integrity.
    Bush offered strong support for Georgia in a speech in Orlando, Fla., condemning Russia’s brutal crackdown in the former Soviet republic.
    ‘‘The United States of America will continue to support Georgia’s democracy,’’ the president said. ‘‘Our military will continue to provide needed humanitarian aid to the Georgia people.’’
    The State Department, meanwhile, said Turkey was allowing three U.S. military ships to pass through the Turkish Straits from the Mediterranean to the Black Sea to deliver humanitarian relief supplies to Georgia.
    ‘‘South Ossetia and Abkhazia are part of Georgia,’’ the president declared, drawing applause from his audience at the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention. The two Russian-backed separatist regions are trying to pull free of Georgian rule, while Bush and other Western leaders insist that Georgia maintain its current borders.
    Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, has said the question of Georgia’s territorial integrity is a dead issue, a sign that Moscow could try to absorb the two separatist regions.
    Earlier, the White House said there were ‘‘early signs’’ of a Russian troop withdraw from Georgia but that it was not enough and needs to increase.
    ‘‘Both the size and pace of the withdrawal needs to increase, and needs to increase sooner rather than later,’’ National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said. ‘‘I don’t think they need any more additional time.’’
    He spoke on Air Force One as President Bush flew from his vacation at his Texas ranch to a speech before the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Orlando, Fla.
    Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has said his troops will complete their pullback by Friday, but few signs of movement have been seen other than the departure of a small contingent that has held the strategically key city of Gori. On Wednesday, Russian forces built a sentry post just 30 miles from the Georgian capital, appearing to dig in to positions deep inside Georgia.
    Traveling with Bush, Johndroe said, ‘‘We are beginning to see the early signs of some withdrawal. It is not significant and it needs to increase.’’
    In Washington, Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman said ‘‘there appears to be some movement out of Gori’’ but that it remains to be seen ‘‘whether that is the beginning of a true withdrawal ... or some sort of token effort’’ designed to get the press to report progress.
    Whitman also said there have been discussions with Russia’s seizure of a number of U.S. Humvees in Georgia. ‘‘It is unresolved at this point,’’ Whitman said.
    He said it was unclear how many of the vehicles where at the port at the time of the incident and exactly how many were taken. They had been used in a recent exercise with the Georgians, who U.S. trainers were preparing for deployment to Iraq.
    ———
    Associated Press reporter Pauline Jelinek contributed to this report from the Pentagon

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