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    U.S. aggravating situation in Georgian conflict zones - Russian gen.

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    American interference is aggravating relations between Georgia and its two breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the chief of the Russian General Staff said on Wednesday.

    MOSCOW, November 7 (RIA Novosti) - American interference is aggravating relations between Georgia and its two breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the chief of the Russian General Staff said on Wednesday.

    Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who is pushing his country for NATO membership, enjoyed until recently Western backing in his ongoing disputes with Russia, in particular over two breakaway regions that have strong ties with Moscow.

    "Events in Georgia are occurring with the interference of the United States," Gen. Yury Baluyevsky said. "Who finances Georgia's $820 million military budget? Who is creating this force, which tomorrow might be used against its own people? I am not ruling this out."

    Baluyevsky also said that an incident involving Russian peacekeepers in Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia in late October was incited by Tbilisi.

    "This was a provocation, and President Saakashvili is one of the initiators of that provocation, which threatened Russian peacekeepers," Baluyevsky said.

    The Russian peacekeepers detained five Georgian officers in the village of Ganmukhuri in late October, saying the Georgians had threatened to open fire on them. Georgia said Russian peacekeepers attacked the police officers and beat them up. The officers were released after the Georgian president arrived in the area to intervene.

    Georgia has repeatedly voiced its goal of regaining control over Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which declared independence in the early 1990s. It has also accused the CIS peacekeeping force, mainly represented by Russians, of backing separatists.

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