Putin calls for prolonging peacekeepers' Abkhaz mandate

Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin on 29 March submitted a written request to the Federation Council to extend until 30 June the mandate of the Russian peacekeeping force currently deployed under the CIS aegis along the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia, Caucasus Press reported. Putin said the peacekeepers' continued presence in the conflict zone meets the interests of the Russian Federation. In Tbilisi, UN Special Representative Dieter Boden said on 30 March he sees no alternative at present to the Russian peacekeepers' continued presence. Astamur Tania, aide to Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba, welcomed Putin's initiative, characterizing the CIS peacekeepers as the only guarantors of peace and security in the region. A delegation from the Abkhaz parliament-in-exile headed by its chairman, Tamaz Nadareishvili, was in Moscow earlier this month to try to persuade Russian State Duma deputies not to vote for the renewal of the peacekeepers' mandate. LF

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