Georgia defied

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Moscow (AFP) - The Georgian leader, Eduard Shevardnadze, faces a fresh challenge in holding his republic together after the tiny western autonomous republic of Abkhazia declared independence. As negotiations for a settlement of the ethnic conflict in South Ossetia are showing signs of a breakthrough, Mr Shevardnadze is caught in a tug-of-war with Abkhazian nationalists.

Georgia's efforts to keep a grip on the Black Sea region were dashed when conservative deputies in Abkhazia restored the 1925 constitution and a 'sovereign state'. But Abkhazia would form a federation with Georgia, the Abkhazian leader Vladislav Ardzinba said.