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Georgia's president says signed S.Ossetia peace plan

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President Mikheil Saakashvili said Friday he had signed the peace plan to resolve Georgia's conflict with its breakaway republic of South Ossetia earlier in the day.
August 15 (RIA Novosti) - President Mikheil Saakashvili said Friday he had signed the peace plan to resolve Georgia's conflict with its breakaway republic of South Ossetia earlier in the day.

The peace plan was agreed Tuesday by the Russian and French presidents and signed Thursday in Moscow by the leaders of Georgia's two rebel regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The Kremlin said Friday that Russia would sign the deal only after Georgia had done so.

The agreement bans the use of force and any military action, and envisages free access to humanitarian aid. Under the deal, Georgian armed forces should return to their bases, and Russian troops should pull back to their pre-combat positions.

Saakashvili said his next step would be to replace Russian peacekeepers in the conflict zone with an international contingent.

Russia has no objections to the deployment of an international peacekeeping force in the Caucasus, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said adding however, that Abkhazia and South Ossetia trusted only Russian troops.

"The party that has suffered from violence and aggression should have the final say in this situation," Medvedev said after talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi.

He also expressed doubt that Abkhazia and South Ossetia could remain part of Georgia.

Saakashvili, who received U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Tbilisi on Friday, warned there would be no compromise and that both Abkhazia and South Ossetia would remain part of Georgia.

Before Tbilisi's August 8 attack on Tskhinvali, 1,500 peacekeepers were deployed in South Ossetia, 500 apiece from Russia, Georgia and South Ossetia. The peacekeepers were only armed with light weapons.

Russia's Defense Ministry said Friday that its peacekeeping force would be expanded and strengthened with armored vehicles, including tanks.

"The numerical strength of peacekeepers to be deployed there on a permanent basis will be increased," Lt.-Gen. Nikolai Uvarov said. "Peacekeepers will be armed not only with small arms and light weapons, but with heavy weaponry, and will also have armored vehicles and tanks attached to them."

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