Medvedev agrees deadline to pull troops out of Georgia

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The Independent Online

Russia has agreed to withdraw its troops from Georgia proper within a month as long as 200 European Union monitors are in place by 1 October.

The French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, speaking after more than four hours of talks with his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev, said: "The retreat of Russian forces. Accepted ... The acceptance of European observers. Accepted."

Mr Medvedev said Russia would pull out of the Black Sea port of Poti and nearby areas in the next seven days, but only if Georgia signed a pledge to not use force again. He did not mention troops in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the breakaway regions where Russia has long deployed "peacekeepers" accused of backing separatists.

The two presidents also announced a conference to be held on 15 October that will focus on security in the region and the return of refugees. Georgia and Russia have accused each other of ethnic cleansing during the six-day war in Georgia.

In further moves illustrating the deteriorating relations between the US and Russia, the Russian government announced the dispatch of a naval squadron and long-range patrol planes to the Caribbean for joint military exercises with Venezuela. The move comes after Russia objected to Nato manoeuvres in the Black Sea, while President George Bush withdrew from Congressional consideration a civilian nuclear cooperation deal signed with Moscow last May.

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