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Medvedev: Russia to Pull Forces from Georgian Buffer Zone

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, left, listens to French President Nicolas Sarkozy, at the presidential residence, 08 Sep 2008

Russia has agreed to pull its troops from a buffer zone around the Georgian breakaway territory of South Ossetia.Russian President Dmitri Medvedev announced the agreement in a joint new conference in Moscow Monday with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.  Mr. Medvedev said the withdrawal will begin as soon as international peacekeepers are in place.

Mr. Sarkozy told reporters all Russian forces will leave core Georgia within one month.Mr. Sarkozy, whose country currently holds the rotating European Union presidency, drew up last month's cease-fire agreement between Georgia and Russia.

Russia insists its remaining troops in and near the Georgian breakaway territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia are functioning as peacekeepers who are complying with the cease-fire.  But Georgia accuses Moscow of violating the cease-fire by deploying additional troops to key checkpoints in Georgian territory.

Mr. Sarkozy travels to Tbilisi later today for talks with Georgian leaders.Russian forces pushed into Georgia last month after the Georgian military tried to retake control of South Ossetia. Russia has since recognized the  independence of both territories, drawing widespread international condemnation.  Nicaragua is the only other country besides Russia to recognize the regions.

Separately, the International Court of Justice in The Hague opened a hearing on Georgia's bid for emergency measures to halt what the Tbilisi government calls Russia's "ethnic cleansing" in South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

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