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    Georgian leader puts up brave face after UN vote - opinion

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    A Russian lawmaker said Saturday that the Georgian leader's appeal to return to his fellow countrymen in Russia was his reaction to an unexpected UN resolution on Georgia.

    MOSCOW, October 14 (RIA Novosti) - A Russian lawmaker said Saturday that the Georgian leader's appeal to return to his fellow countrymen in Russia was his reaction to an unexpected UN resolution on Georgia.

    President Mikheil Saakashvili has called on Georgians living in Russia for returning to their homeland to contribute to rebuilding Abkhazia, the breakaway region the Western-leaning leader has pledged to regain control of.

    "We are prepared to return to Abkhazia, and we need your help in rebuilding the country," Saakashvili said.

    A senior member of Russia's lower chamber of parliament said Saakashvili thereby put up a brave face after the UN Security Council adopted the Russia-proposed resolution, which urges the ex-Soviet country to refrain from provocative actions in its breakaway region of Abkhazia and extended Russia's peacekeeping mandate in the region until April 2007.

    "To Saakashvili, the adoption of this resolution was totally unexpected, and he is trying hard to put up a brave face in defiance of the opinion voiced by the international community," said Sergei Antufyev, deputy head of the State Duma's International Affairs Committee.

    Georgia, which is situated at the strategically important crossroads between the Caspian and Black seas, has become a subject of serious rivalry between Moscow and Washington in recent years. The U.S. has invested heavily in an oil pipeline from Azerbaijan via Georgia to Turkey and recently announced that it would provide $10 million to help Tbilisi's bid to join NATO.

    The U.S., along with Britain, had blocked the initial version of the resolution proposed by Russia, which put the blame for new tensions with the self-proclaimed republics on Georgia, and the resolution went through many versions before it was adopted Friday.

    Russia retains a peacekeeping presence in Georgia's breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which declared independence following bloody conflicts after the breakup of the Soviet Union.

    Georgia's leadership, which is currently embroiled in a spying row with Russia, accuses the Kremlin of supporting the breakaway regions' drive for full independence and demands the Russian peacekeepers' withdrawal. But Russia says its presence has been vital for deterring a new wave of violence in the region.

    Russia's foreign minister said earlier the resolution reflected all the Russian demands to Georgia.

    Antufyev also said the Georgian president's appeal did not suggest plans to launch a military operation in the region.

    But a senior member of the Federation Council, the upper chamber of parliament, said Georgia's Western partners must be concerned about the pronouncement, which he described as militaristic.

    "What Saakashvili said must worry his partners in Brussels and the U.S.," Vasily Likhachev said.

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