Rice warns Russia not to redraw European map

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Condoleezza Rice today warned Russia not to try to redraw the map of Europe in the wake of its invasion of Georgia.

After a Nato foreign ministers' meeting, the US Secretary of State said that the alliance "intends to support the territorial integrity, independence and sovereignty of Georgia."

Ms Rice cautioned Moscow not to draw new dividing lines across Europe. "A new line in Europe where Russia somehow asserts that there are those who cannot opt for a trans-Atlantic future is unacceptable," she added.

She said the allies were united in calling on Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to withdraw Russian combat troops from Georgia. "It is time for the Russian president to keep his word to withdraw Russian forces," she added. The Nato allies also agreed to strengthen relations with Georgia by creating a special consultative body.

Nato insisted the tiny Caucasus nation remains on track to become a member of the alliance despite Moscow's opposition.

The aim, the foreign ministers said in a statement, was to "assist Georgia, a valued and long-standing partner of Nato, to assess the damage caused by (Russia's) military action and help restore critical services" such as power network, airports, hospitals and other infrastructure.

Nato Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said relations with Russia would be limited by the conflict. "There can be no business as usual with Russia under the present circumstances," he said.

He said the allies will not hold meetings of the Nato-Russia Council as long as Russian troops remained in Georgia.

The Nato allies want Russian combat troops to leave the country, meaning Russian peacekeepers in the breakaway Georgian province of South Ossetia can remain.

The Russian-Georgian confrontation has severely exacerbated tensions between Moscow and the West. Despite calling on Russia to pull its forces from Georgia, Mr De Hoop Scheffer said, "we do not see signals of that happening."

Nato pledged to restate its commitment to eventually offer alliance membership to Georgia.

The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe said Russia had agreed to allow 20 more international military monitors in and around Georgia's disputed region of South Ossetia.

Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb, the current OSCE chairman, said the plan calls for the observers to be sent immediately to the Georgian capital of Tbilisi. Georgia still must approve the plan.

The organisation wants eventually to have 100 military monitors to help oversee the cease-fire, Mr Stubb said.

The 56-nation OSCE, which had eight monitors in South Ossetia, has been engaged in promoting a peaceful settlement to tensions in South Ossetia since the end of a separatist war in the early 1990s left the region with de facto independence.