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    ESCALATING GEORGIA-OSSETIA CONFLICT IS A SOURCE OF CONCERN FOR U.S.-STATE DEPT. ENVOY

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    TBILISI/LONDON, July 15 (RIA Novosti) - The United States is profoundly concerned over the ongoing escalation of the conflict between Georgia and its breakaway province of South Ossetia, Stephen Mann, the U.S. State Department's special envoy for conflicts in the Eurasian region, pointed out Thursday at a news briefing in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi. He spoke to reporters after his meeting with Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania.

    According to Mr. Mann, Secretary of State Colin Powell wants to make sure that the American side is doing all it can to help bring about a peace settlement of the Georgia-Ossetia conflict and this is why he has sent the State Department envoy to Tbilisi.

    Tonight, Mr Mann will meet with Russian Ambassador-at Large Lev Mironov to discuss the latest developments in South Ossetia.

    According to the PR department of the U.S. Embassy to Georgia, the main objective of the State Department envoy's current South Caucasus tour is attending a session of the co-chairs of OSCE Minsk Group for Nagorny Karabakh Settlement. Before coming to Tbilisi, he visited Armenia and the disputed region of Nagorny Karabakh.

    Along with the George-Ossetia standoff, Mr Mann is also expected to bring up issues related to the East-West energy corridor and the construction of the baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline. Later tonight, the American official is leaving Tbilisi for the Azeri capital of Baku, where the Minsk Group co-chairs are to resume negotiations on Nagorny Karabakh settlement.

    In the meantime, British Defense Ministry spokesman Charlie Morton reported at a news conference in London that British troops were now in Georgia to take part in a joint military exercise. About 160 contract soldiers from an infantry unit of the UK Territorial Army are now staying in that Transcaucasian republic, he specified. They have joined a Georgian infantry battalion in a bilateral exercise code-named "Georgian Express." The exercise will last through July 17, after which the British personnel will return to the United Kingdom, Mr Morton said.

    This is not a large-scale exercise as 160 troops will be enough to man a company only, he remarked.

    According to the Defense Ministry spokesman, the British troops are helping Georgian counterparts to raise the efficiency of their performance and preparing them for peacekeeping operations under the auspices of the United Nations and other international organizations.

    The joint exercise in Georgia draws on the expertise gained by British peacekeeping personnel in the Balkans, in Afghanistan, and other flashpoints across the world.

    The exercise is being carried out on the Vaziani site-a former Russian military base 30 kilometers away from the Georgian capital, Tbilisi.

    On Thursday, British and Georgian troops jointly practiced liberating a village captured by terrorists.

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