Georgian President opposes CIS withdrawal

Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said he opposed withdrawing from theMoscow-led Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) despite what he termedas Russian aggression against his former Soviet republic."The commonwealth has not exhausted its potential," Shevardnadze saidduring his weekly radio interview, singling out CIS trade and economicrelations and resolutions concerning the breakaway province of Abkhazia asparticularly useful. He also said that he could not agree to lawmakers'calls that Russian peacemakers be withdrawn from the breakaway province ofAbkhazia, where they monitor a shaky truce, as a protest against Moscow'saccusations that Georgian - not Russian - planes were responsible for abombing raid last month that killed one person and injured seven more.Russian-Georgian tensions have soared in recent months as the two sideshave traded accusations over Chechen militants allegedly holed up inGeorgia's lawless Pankisi Gorge. Before Georgia launched a specialoperation to purge the gorge of alleged militants, Russian planes allegedlydropped bombs on Georgian territory. Russia claims that Chechen militantshave used the Pankisi Gorge for training camps and supply shipments intoneighboring Chechnya, and it has demanded permission to send its own troopsto purge the gorge, the Russia Journal reported..

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