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Bush Outlines Humanitarian, Diplomatic Intervention in Georgia

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 13, 2008 – The U.S. military will head humanitarian relief operations in Georgia, President Bush said today. A C-17 aircraft already has been deployed to deliver the first round of supplies.

“And in the days ahead, we will use U.S. aircraft as well as naval forces to deliver humanitarian and medical supplies,” Bush added during a White House news conference today following meetings with his national security team.

Bush called on Russia to honor its commitment to allow all forms of humanitarian assistance to enter and to ensure that all lines of communication and transport -- seaports, airports, roads and airspace -- remain open for the delivery of assistance and for civilian transit.

Meanwhile, the president is dispatching Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to France, where she is slated to meet with France’s President Nicholas Sarkozy, who, as current president of the European Union, is leading negotiations to broker a peace agreement.

Bush reiterated the United States’ support of the democratically elected government of Georgia, saying the U.S. insists that “the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia be respected.”

Bush expressed concerns that Russia is continuing attacks on Georgia despite a ceasefire pledge by Moscow. During today’s briefing, he laid out U.S. plans for humanitarian and diplomatic intervention in the former Soviet republic.

Reports detailing ongoing Russian aggression in Georgia contradict Russia’s claim that it has ceased military operations there, Bush said at the White House.

“Russia has also stated that it has halted military operations and agreed to a provisional cease-fire,” Bush said. “Unfortunately, we're receiving reports of Russian actions that are inconsistent with these statements.

“We expect Russia to meet its commitment to cease all military activities in Georgia, and we expect all Russian forces who have entered Georgia in recent days to withdraw from that country,” he added.

According to reports, Bush said, Russian units have taken up positions on the east side of the city of Gori, which allows them to block the east-west highway, divide the country and threaten the Georgian capital of Tbilisi.

Information further indicates that Russian forces have entered and taken positions in the port city of Poti, that armored vehicles are blocking access to the port, and that Russia is destroying Georgian vessels.

“We're concerned about reports that Georgian citizens of all ethnic origins are not being protected,” Bush said. “All forces, including Russian forces, have an obligation to protect innocent civilians from attack.”

Echoing his previous remarks, Bush said Russia's actions have damaged the country's standing with the U.S., Europe and other nations, and raise serious questions about its intentions in Georgia and the region. He added that the U.S. and the world expect Russia to honor their commitment to refrain from deposing Georgia's democratic government.

"To begin to repair the damage to its relations with the United States, Europe and other nations, and to begin restoring its place in the world, Russia must keep its word and act to end this crisis," he said today.

Now in the sixth day of conflict, fighting that began last week in the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia broadened to include Russian attacks on Abkhazia, another heavily separatist region, among other parts of the country.

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