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    MOSCOW CONCERNED ABOUT GEORGIA'S RECENT STATEMENTS ON SOUTH OSSETIA, LAVROV SAYS

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    ROME, July 15 (RIA Novosti) - Moscow is concerned about the Georgian leadership's recent statements on the situation in South Ossetia, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a press conference in Rome following the talks with his Italian counterpart Franco Frattini.

    "These statements poison the atmosphere and create negative moods," Mr. Lavrov said commenting on President Mikhail Saakashvili's words that Georgia cannot put up with the developments in South Ossetia.

    This is an attempt to change the angle of the Georgian-South Ossetian conflict, he noted.

    According to Sergei Lavrov, the conflict can be settled by means of a compromise between Tbilisi and Tskhinvali (capital of rebellious South Ossetia).

    Russia is ready to promote the settlement on the basis of the sides' agreements, however, the sides should compromise on this problem themselves, he concluded.

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, currently on a routine visit to Rome, also met with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Vice Premier Gianfranco Fini. The sides discussed key international issues and prospects of bilateral cooperation in different spheres. The meeting was held in cordial atmosphere.

    In particular, they considered the implementation of bilateral agreements achieved during Russian President Vladimir Putin's state visit to Italy in November 2003 and Silvio Berlusconi's routine visit to Russia in April 2004, sources in the government palace said.

    They pointed out the importance of the bilateral inter-governmental agreement on the simplification of Russian-Italian visa regulations, signed in Moscow in June. The sides also discussed a number of initiatives on the development of Russian-Italian economic and cultural links.

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