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Saakashvili says Russian people are not Georgia's enemies

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili said on Friday he did not consider the Russian people enemies of Georgia.
TBILISI, January 23 (RIA Novosti) - Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili said on Friday he did not consider the Russian people enemies of Georgia.

"Our enemies are not the Russian people, and far less the Ossetians," Saakashvili said in a live interview on Georgian television.

Russia recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states on August 26. Both rebel republics split from Georgia in the early 1990s. Russia's move came after a five-day war with Georgia in August that began when Georgian forces attacked South Ossetia in a bid to bring the republic under central control.

The only country so far to join Russia in recognizing the rebel republics is Nicaragua, and Saakashvili said that Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega was "out of his mind."

Saakashvili also put the blame for August's war on Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

"Georgia has not had such a vigilant enemy since Shah Abbas I," the Georgian president said.

Shah Abbas I was a Persian shah who suppressed a rebellion on the territory of modern-day Georgia in 1614-15.

Saakashvili also pledged that Georgia would be the first to propose resolving the most disputed issues with Russia. He called Georgia's territorial integrity the key issue.

"If Georgia's statehood is broken, we will find ourselves enslaved... And our enemy, who has not yet accomplished his business, knows that too well," Saakashvili said.

Saakashvili said Georgia had neither lost nor won the August war with Russia.

"Don't believe that we have won the war. Until the borders on the Roki tunnel and the Psou River are restored, we will not have victory. And don't believe we have lost the war - in this case Georgia would have lost its government, and found itself in the dark and cold," he said.

The Georgian president said the development of the economy, further integration into Europe, and accession to NATO would save Georgia.

"Unless we recover our feet, save the economy, integrate into Europe, join NATO and fulfill the charter we have signed with the United States, nobody in Moscow will take us seriously," Saakashvili said"

"As long as Georgia has strength to put up resistance and go west toward NATO, Russia cannot be considered the winner," he said.

NATO refused in December, for the second time in 2008, to grant Georgia a Membership Action Plan, a key step towards joining the military alliance.

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