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Georgia and Russia have agreed to a modified version
Georgia and Russia have agreed to a modified version of a French-brokered peace plan, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said after meeting with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili in Tbilisi.

The six-point deal, altered to meet Russia's demands, is widely seen as leaving Saakashvili in a far weaker position than before his costly attempt last Friday to seize control of South Ossetia through a military offensive.

However, Sarkozy told a briefing after talks with his Georgian counterpart that the deal also includes some changes requested by Georgia.

"At the request of the Georgian side, we introduced a number of amendments, which we twice discussed on the telephone with Russian President Medvedev. So we have removed the issue of South Ossetia's status from the document," he said.

Russia has accused Georgia of war crimes in its attack on South Ossetia, saying 1,600 civilians were killed, mainly Russian citizens.

Saakashvili has set the task of bringing the province, along with breakaway Abkhazia, under central control as a key goal of his presidency. However, the conflict has made this seem a distant prospect, with Russia insisting that Georgian peacekeepers cannot return to South Ossetia, and Medvedev suggesting Abkhazians and South Ossetians be allowed to decide on their status.

Sarkozy said the peace plan would be discussed by European Union foreign ministers in Brussels on Wednesday, and that a legally binding agreement should then be signed.

Georgia's president said he agreed to the French proposal for an immediate ceasefire and the pullback of forces to their positions on August 7.

However, on "the issue of Georgia's territorial integrity, and the return of refuges, the Georgian side will make no concessions," Saakashvili said.

The two presidents said these issues would be the focus of the next stage of negotiations between Georgia and Russia, with French participation.

The presidents of Russia and France agreed on Tuesday on six principles to resolve the situation in the Georgian breakaway republic of South Ossetia.

"The first is not to resort to the use of force. The second is to halt all military action. The third is free access to humanitarian aid. The fourth is that Georgian Armed Forces should return to their bases. The fifth is that Russian Armed Forces should pull back to their positions prior to combat," Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said.

"The sixth is the beginning of international discussions on the future status of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and on ways to ensure their security," he added.

Medvedev also said that Georgia's attack on Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia, should be taken into account when deciding the future status of both South Ossetia and Abkhazia. He made reference to the "precedent" of Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence in February, and its subsequent recognition by the United States and the majority of EU countries.

South Ossetia and Abkhazia broke away from Georgia after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Both republics fought vicious wars with Tbilisi that eventually ended in the retreat of Georgian troops and the regions gaining de facto independence.


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