Source AP ©

Abkhazia rejects USA’s offer to deploy peacekeeping forces there

The breakaway Georgian republic of Abkhazia has rejected a U.S. proposal to deploy an international police force there, its leader said Tuesday.

The regional government, which is not internationally recognized, instead pledged to keep Russian peacekeepers on the ground, despite Georgia's accusations that they are fomenting tensions.

The U.S. State Department said Monday that Abkhazia "urgently" needs an international police presence in areas where recent bombings killed four people and wounded five. It also called on Abkhazia to resume peace talks with Georgia.

"We are not going to listen to any recommendations from the State Department, which always has a unilaterally pro-Georgian position," Abkhazia's leader Sergei Bagapsh told journalists.

He also refused to resume talks unless Georgia stops what he called "terrorist attacks."

Russia recently increased its peacekeeper contingent in Abkhazia - a move Georgia claimed was part of a Moscow plan to annex the region. Russia also supports separatists in another breakaway Georgian region, South Ossetia, and most people in both regions carry Russian passports.

Abkhazia claims the explosions are part of a Georgian government effort to retake control of the regions by force. Georgian officials deny responsibility for the bombings and call them provocations.

South Ossetia authorities said Tuesday they detained four Georgian officers in the border zone. Separatist government spokeswoman Irina Gagloyeva said they were collecting reconnaissance data for Georgian artillery.

Georgian Gen. Mamuka Kurashvili said the detained officers were visiting friends and were illegally captured by a militant group.

Last week, Georgian forces shelled several South Ossetian towns, killing two people and wounding 11 others. The Georgians said their troops had to fire back because the separatists attacked them.

Abkhazia and South Ossetia _ which split off in a separatist war in the 1990s - have become a focus of Russia's efforts to thwart pro-Western Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili's drive to take his country into NATO.

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