New military chief of U.N observer mission in Georgia hopes to ease separatist tensions

The new military chief of the U.N. observer mission in Georgia said Thursday that the peacekeepers hoped to help in ease tensions between Tbilisi and the separatist province of Abkhazia.

Maj. Gen. Niaz Muhammad Khan Khattak of Pakistan met with Abkhaz leaders as he took up his post.

"The U.N military observer mission's work in the future will assist in a resolution of the conflict and in preventing an escalation of the situation in the region," the Pakistani general said.

The U.N. observer mission has been deployed in Georgia since 1993 to monitor a ceasefire between central government and Abkhaz forces and includes 120 military observers and 12 civilian police.

Abkhazia has run its own affairs since 1993, when the separatists drove out Georgian government troops. The Black Sea region is not recognized internationally, but has cultivated closer ties with Russia.

Since coming to power in 2004, pro-Western Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili has vowed to reunite his fractured Caucasus Mountain country, bringing Abkhazia and another renegade province, South Ossetia, back under central control, AP reported.

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