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    No Georgian inspections of former Russian base in Abkhazia

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    Abkhazian authorities will not allow the Georgian Defense Ministry to inspect the former Russian base in the self-proclaimed republic, the Abkhazian leader said Thursday.

    MOSCOW, August 31 (RIA Novosti) - Abkhazian authorities will not allow the Georgian Defense Ministry to inspect the former Russian base in the self-proclaimed republic, the Abkhazian leader said Thursday.

    Georgia has repeatedly demanded the right to inspect the base in Gudauta, near Abkhazia's capital, Sukhumi. Under the 1999 Istanbul agreements, Russia withdrew its troops from bases in Vaziani, near the Georgian capital, and Gudauta in 2001.

    The sides officially confirmed the withdrawal of Russian troops from Vaziani, but Georgia continues to demand an inspection and a "genuine closing" of the base in Gudauta.

    Commenting on Georgia's desire to inspect the base during the monitoring of the Kodori Gorge, the only part of the self-proclaimed republic still under Tbilisi's nominal control, Sergei Bagapsh told RIA Novosti that Georgian inspectors will not be admitted to the base.

    He said Georgia was hampering the monitoring, which was scheduled for August 20.

    "Sukhumi is not conducting any talks on the withdrawal of Georgian troops from the Kodori Gorge so far," he said, adding that Tbilisi was not interested in further peace talks.

    Merab Antadze, the Georgian state minister for conflict resolution, said in mid-August that his country was ready to start international monitoring of the Kodori Gorge on August 20, but without Russian peacekeepers.

    Russian troops remain in Abkhazia as part of a peacekeeping mission from the former Soviet era, but Georgia accuses them of supporting Abkhazian separatists.

    "At this point, collective peacekeeping forces [from ex-Soviet republics] will not participate in the monitoring," he said.

    In late July, Georgia's parliament called for Russian peacekeepers in the conflict zone to be declared illegal. They have been stationed there since the early 1990s.

    Georgia started an operation in the remote Kodori Gorge in late July to find and disarm a rebellious militia unit led by Emzar Kvitsiani, a former Georgian presidential envoy to Abkhazia.

    The operation began after Kvitsiani said July 23 that he did not recognize Tbilisi's rule. He said Georgian troops were moving into the area to disarm former members of his "Hunter" border guard battalion, which was formally disbanded in 2005, although most members refuse to lay down their arms.

    Abkhazia declared independence in 1992, which led to a conflict with Georgia that ended with a ceasefire two years later. Thousands died during the fighting.

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