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    South Ossetia to miss conference on Georgian-Ossetian conflict

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    MOSCOW, June 27 (RIA Novosti) - South Ossetia, a self-proclaimed republic in Georgia, will not attend an international conference on resolving the Georgian-Ossetian conflict, the republic's leader Eduard Kokoity said today.

    Kokoity dismissed the event, which is scheduled to be held in late June-early July in Batumi, the capital of the once breakaway Georgian autonomy of Adzharia. "This is a regular PR event for Western sponsors," he said.

    Kokoity said Tbilisi was proud that it had annexed Adzharia as an autonomy. "But we see there is no democracy in Georgia and no autonomy in Adzharia," the South Ossetian leader said. "Therefore, we are not intending to attend this conference."

    According to Kokoity, South Ossetian human rights organizations will not participate in the forum either. "This shows the South Ossetian people's unity, when the issue is about the nation's self-determination and the true goal it sets - unification with North Ossetia and joining Russia," he said.

    Kokoity said the Georgian government would try to remove Russian peacekeepers from the Georgian-Ossetian conflict zone after Russian military bases were withdrawn from Georgia. However, he added that Russia was the guarantor of stability in the entire Caucasus region and the presence of peacekeepers in the zones of the Georgian-Ossetian and Georgian-Abkhazian conflicts was a containing factor.

    Although Kokoity said South Ossetia was also counting on its own armed forces, which had become stronger recently, he said the region still hoped for a peaceful settlement.

    "We recommend that the Georgian side move away from bellicose rhetoric toward [constructive] talks aimed at normal good-neighborly relations," the South Ossetian leader said.

    He said the ports of Poti and Batumi in Georgia had to be kept under strict control as, in his opinion, weapons and military hardware were being delivered there from the West. "All that is being delivered there now is aimed against us," Kokoity said. He added he would call on the leaders of Russia's North Caucasus republics to control the situation.

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