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14 Aug, 2008 18:23

U.S. ramps up war of words

U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates has accused Russia of trying to punish Georgia for attempting to integrate with the West.

The sentiment was echoed by the U.S. representative to NATO, who said he didn't rule out disbanding the Russia NATO council. Kurt Walker said the alliance is highly concerned over Russia's actions in Georgia and that Russia had made a mistake.

But not all member states share his point of view.

Germany and Italy said they do not want to see a deterioration of relations with Russia.

Slovakian Prime Minster Robert Fico said it was clear to him that Georgia was the aggressor in the conflict, and the Vice Speaker of Parliament said Tbilisi wanted a “genocide”.

The French President said that whether the “fragile” ceasefire holds is up to Georgia.

“I prefer you ask me about a fragile ceasefire than a war … On the ground it is improving. If tomorrow Mr. Saakashvili signs these documents that we have negotiated with Mr. Medvedev then the withdrawal of Russian troops can begin,” said Nicolas Sarkozy.

On the US-Russian front, the situation is more black and white.

“The United States of America stands strongly for the territorial integrity of Georgia … There shouldn't be any question,” said US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Meanwhile, after talks with Moscow, the Turkish Prime Minister came to Tbilisi in an attempt to help resolve the stalemate.

But despite support from NATO members, Saakashvili is facing strong criticism from within his own country.

Former Georgian president Eduard Shevarnadze, whose government was overthrown by Saakashvili's Rose Revolution, says Saakashvili had made a mistake by starting the violence.