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Russia blocks UN statement on missile incident with Georgia

RIA Novosti

17/08/2007 10:43 UNITED NATIONS, August 17 (RIA Novosti) - Russia blocked an attempt late Thursday to force a UN Security Council vote condemning Moscow for an alleged violation of Georgian airspace by Russian aircraft.

Georgia accused Russia last week of violating its airspace and dropping a missile at a radar station near the border with breakaway South Ossetia. The missile did not explode, and Russia has denied the charges as a provocation to disrupt peace efforts in the conflict zone, where it deploys peacekeepers.

The U.S. has introduced two draft statements in the Security Council deploring the alleged attack and supporting Georgia's demands to hold an emergency meeting on the issue.

But Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said it was premature to draw any conclusions about the August 6 incident before Russian and Georgian experts jointly study the circumstances.

"During the discussion [at the UN], some delegations referred to one-sided reports [of the incident, however that approach did not meet the majority support," Churkin said.

"Georgia is trying to make some noise, while all we need is a professional discussion between Georgian and Russian experts," the Russian diplomat said.

Georgia earlier claimed an international group of independent experts had confirmed the airspace violation was from the Russian side.

However, Russia continues to deny involvement in the air incident, and Russian peacekeepers in the conflict zone earlier said the aircraft had come from Georgia and returned there.

Churkin questioned Thursday hasty conclusions made by an independent commission, comprising specialists from the United States, Sweden, Lithuania and Latvia, implying that the "so-called independent experts were not really so independent."

He said a group of Russian Defense Ministry experts, including Russian Air Force Commander Igor Khvorov, had joined a probe into the missile incident and only a joint investigation could bring conclusive results.

The missile incident renewed tensions between the two countries, which have so far failed to find common ground on the sensitive issue of South Ossetia.

Georgian authorities are seeking to bring the breakaway republic back under their control, and have accused Russia, which has peacekeepers in the area, along with Georgian and South Ossetian troops, of fuelling separatist sentiments.

The latest reports said a session of the Georgian state commission on the status of South-Ossetia, earlier scheduled for August 15, had been postponed for at least two weeks.

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