"The Georgian authorities have never denied that there are armed individuals in Pankisi," Georgian president Eduard Shevardnadze said, thus acknowledging the fact indicated by both Russia and the USA, that there are international terrorists based in the Pankisi Gorge in Georgia.
"Yet absolute majority of the gorge's population are civilians, both refugees from Chechnya and our compatriots," the Georgian president said in an interview with the National radio.
The Russian television has recently shown documentary evidence that armed Chechen rebels who penetrated the Russian territory from Georgia in late July had official certificates of the Georgian authorities on them proving that they were "mere refugees".
"It is out of the question that Georgia would agree" to carry out a joint "large-scale operation" with Russia against the rebels hiding in the gorge, as "civil population of the gorge will inevitably suffer" as a result, the president said. "If an operation is to be conducted, it will be by Georgian law enforcement bodies alone," he stressed.
It is well known, though, that Georgia has neither resources nor will for such an operation.
The Georgian authorities prefer "special measures" aiming at acquiring "essential information" about terrorists, Shevardnadze said.
Yet in taking these steps Georgian structures should cooperate with their Russian colleagues, he added. "Georgia is always ready for such cooperation," the president claimed.