Mon, Jul 12, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Clashes in Georgia raise fears of war with Russia


Tensions spiraled over the separatist region of South Ossetia after Georgia said four people were wounded in a South Ossetian attack and the Georgian president warned that escalated fighting could bring a war with Russia.

"If conflict flares up in South Ossetia, it won't be an internal conflict in Georgia, it will be a conflict between Georgia and Russia," said Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili.

Some 80 percent of South Ossetia's residents hold Russian passports and Saakashvili's vow to regain control of the region, de-facto independent since 1992, has strained relations between Georgia and its huge neighbor.

South Ossetian forces this week seized and disarmed 38 Georgian soldiers, but released all but three a day later. Georgian, Russian and South Ossetian forces all have peacekeeping contingents in the region. On Saturday, three Georgian Interior Ministry servicemen and a civilian were wounded by grenade and automatic weapons firing in the village of Ardvisi, near South Ossetia, said a police official of the Georgian region that includes Ardvisi.

South Ossetia on Friday said one of its policemen was wounded in an attack by unknown assailants.

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