Source AP ©

OSCE sends 20 military observers to Georgia

Russia has agreed to the deployment of a bigger international monitoring mission in and around Georgia's disputed region of South Ossetia, the head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said Tuesday.

OSCE chairman Alexander Stubb, the Finnish foreign minister, said the plan called for the immediate dispatch of 20 military observers to Tbilisi.

There currently are eight OSCE observers in Georgia.Stubb, speaking on the sidelines of an emergency meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels, Belgium, about the aftermath of the brief but intense Russian-Georgian war, said the contingent of unarmed observers would eventually number about 100.

It would take the OSCE several days to assemble the larger group, Stubb said, adding that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had agreed to "way over 100."

"We're looking for an expansion of the (observers') mandate beyond South Ossetia," Stubb said. "We will have a decision on the remaining 70-80 in the coming days."

He said Moscow had given its approval on Tuesday morning, but that he was still waiting for authorization from the government in Tbilisi.

"We now have the green light from 55 members of the OSCE and we are still awaiting for one," Stubb told reporters. "We are waiting for a green light from Tbilisi to make this possible."

Stubb said the expanded monitoring mission could form the basis of a future international peacekeeping force deployed to Georgia. This would have to await a resolution by the U.N. Security Council, he said.

Stubb said Lavrov had been "very constructive" in negotiations to allow the OSCE monitors into the battle zone.

Intense negotiations appeared to near completion at OSCE headquarters in Vienna in an attempt to reach agreement on the final text of a decision to send in the monitors. It was unclear when the organization's Permanent Council would reconvene to authorize the move.

One of the sticking points in the last hours appeared to be whether the 20 military monitors to be deployed immediately would go in under an existing mandate or a new one.

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