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U.S. request not behind Russian ceasefire in S.Ossetia - Lavrov

RIA Novosti

13/08/2008 15:04 MOSCOW, August 13 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's foreign minister said Wednesday that Russia had ended its operation in Georgia's breakaway South Ossetia after fulfilling tasks set by its president, not at the request of the United States.

President Dmitry Medvedev announced Tuesday a halt in Russia's operation to force Georgia to accept peace in South Ossetia.

"The operation was halted not because President [George] Bush had made a request, but because the goals set by the Russian president had been attained," Sergei Lavrov told reporters in Moscow.

The foreign minster said Georgian orders had resulted in "acts of genocide" which could not be left unpunished.

Russia has accused Georgia of war crimes in its August 8 attack on South Ossetia's capital of Tskhinvali, saying 1,600 civilians were killed, mainly Russian citizens.

Georgia and Russia have agreed to a modified version of a French-brokered peace plan, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said after meeting with his Georgian counterpart Mikheil Saakashvili in Tbilisi.

The six-point deal, altered to meet Russia's demands, is widely seen as leaving Saakashvili in a far weaker position than before his costly attempt to seize control of South Ossetia through a military offensive.

Saakashvili has set the task of bringing the province, along with breakaway Abkhazia, under central control as a key goal of his presidency. However, the conflict has made this seem a distant prospect, with Russia insisting that Georgian peacekeepers cannot return to South Ossetia, and Medvedev suggesting Abkhazians and South Ossetians be allowed to decide on their status.

Lavrov reiterated Wednesday that the principles of any international discussion of the status of South Ossetia and Abkhazia remained in force, and said that talks on how to ensure the security of Georgia's breakaway republics had to consider their status.

He added that Russia's role as a peacekeeper in the Caucasus should not be doubted, describing U.S. criticism of Moscow's role as ungrounded.

"This role cannot be doubted, it has been and will be played scrupulously," Lavrov said rebuffing the recent accusations of aggression from Matthew Bryza, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs.

"He seems to be still worrying that the principles coordinated with the French president contain nothing of the kind. Instead, Russia's role as a peacekeeper is affirmed there," the foreign minister said.

However, Lavrov said most foreign diplomats in Moscow had formed unbiased opinions of the developments in South Ossetia.

"On the whole, the world has the correct perception of what is going on," the diplomat said. "Ambassadors working in Moscow mostly provide their countries with unbiased reports about the developments."

The pro-Western leaders of Poland and the post-Soviet countries of Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia appeared alongside Georgia's president at a mass rally in central Tbilisi on Tuesday to show a united front against Russia.

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