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South Ossetia urges Tbilisi to withdraw "puppet government" troops

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MOSCOW, April 18 (RIA Novosti) - The breakaway province of South Ossetia in Georgia called Wednesday on Tbilisi to pull out all illegal armed groups from the Georgian-South Ossetian conflict zone.

South Ossetia declared independence from Georgia following a bloody conflict that killed hundreds in 1991-1992. The pro-Western Georgian government of Mikheil Saakashvili has said it is determined to bring the breakaway region back under its control.

South Ossetian officials issued a statement Wednesday saying that Georgia had been building up its military contingent in the conflict zone in violation of previously reached agreements.

The statement said the so-called "alternative government," led by Dmitry Sanakoyev, set up a tent camp in the village of Kurta in the conflict zone April 12 to train paramilitary volunteers and police recruits. South Ossetia claims up to 150 men will be deployed in the camp by the summer.

"Georgia's actions aimed at further militarization of the conflict zone and provoking the arms race in the region, are threatening regional security in the Caucasus and hampering the implementation of the previous agreements to resolve the conflict," South Ossetia authorities said.

South Ossetia held a presidential election, along with a referendum to reaffirm its independence, November 12 of last year. Georgia, which is seeking to regain control over the region, organized an alternative poll in local Georgian-populated villages on the same day.

Sanakoyev, a former prime minister of South Ossetia now regarded as a "defector" in the self-proclaimed republic, swore on South Ossetia's present Constitution, saying in two languages that he "would work to promote the interests of the Ossetian people and to ensure peace between Georgians and Ossetians."

The breakaway republic dismissed the "alternative" election as a "farce." The results of South Ossetia's election and plebiscite have not been recognized as legitimate, either by Georgia or by the West.

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