Georgia plans to pull out Russian forces

The two regions have run their own affairs with Russian support since breaking away from central government control in wars in the early 1990s, and have resisted efforts by Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili rein them in.

Russian officials have indicated they would not agree to withdraw peacekeepers from South Ossetia or Abkhazia unless the separatist leaders of the regions call on them to do so.

Russian authorities have granted citizenship to the majority of residents of the two regions and have stressed they would take no action that would endanger Russian citizens - another argument against withdrawal of the peacekeepers, accprding to the AP.

Georgia accuses the peacekeepers of siding with the separatists. Tension has been particularly high in South Ossetia, with Georgia and Russia accusing each other of planning provocations as a pretext for the use of force.

Relations between Georgia and Russia have worsened significantly since the 2004 election of Saakashvili, who has sought to shed Russian influence on Georgia - dominated by Moscow for most of the past two centuries - and align his country with the United States and Europe.

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