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Georgia seeks end to Russian 'big brother' meddling
( 2003-12-02 09:52) (Agencies)

Georgia's interim President Nino Burdzhanadze said on Monday her country wanted to repair relations with Russia but warned Moscow against interfering in domestic politics.

Burdzhanadze, an opposition leader appointed after Eduard Shevardnadze quit following unrest from Georgians who accused him of vote-rigging in parliamentary elections last month, said Georgia wanted to mend relations with Russia but not at the cost of its sovereignty.

Burdzhanadze was speaking at a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe -- a 55-member human rights and democracy body, where she also met Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov.

"Russia is not ready yet to begin new relations with Georgia," she told a news conference. "They want their military bases to remain in Russian territory. They want to have Georgia not as a friend but as a dependent partner."

"I want to begin to build new relations on the basis of a peaceful resolution of problems that we have, on the basis of respect of each other, not on the basis of the syndrome of Big Brother that Russia had during its imperial past," she said.

The Tbilisi government was irritated last week when Russian officials met leaders from South Ossetia and Abkhazia -- which broke free of Georgian control more than a decade ago -- and Adzhara -- which has never espoused outright separatism.

"We are ready to step out of a box of historical prejudices and start our relations from a clean paper. At the same time this should be a two-way street," Burdzhanadze told the OSCE summit in the southern Dutch city of Maastricht.

"Our Russian colleagues should also understand that actions undermining Georgian sovereignty and territorial integrity similar to those we witnessed during the last week in Moscow ruin all positive messages and put us in an avoidable confrontational position."

Burdzhanadze said she would discuss relations with Russia at a meeting on Tuesday on the sidelines of the OSCE summit with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell.

"Our proposal is to have something like a triangle, Georgia, the United States, Russia, because we have a lot of problems where the United States could play a very positive role."

Under Shevardnadze, the one-time Soviet foreign minister who helped end the Cold War, relations between Russia and Georgia were stormy. Tbilisi accuses Moscow, which has two military bases in Georgia, of encouraging separatist rebels.

The Kremlin, which played a central role in negotiations leading to Shevardnadze's resignation, has vowed not to interfere in the former Soviet republic's internal politics.

Western states that see Georgia as a key transit country for a planned pipeline to bring Caspian oil to the Mediterranean are watching events there closely, mindful of a chaotic civil war that gripped the country in the 1990s.

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