Sunday, August 10, 2008

Crisis in South Ossetia worsening

Reuters has a report. the UN Security Council is trying to issue a statement, but Russia has a veto.

By Louis Charbonneau

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council was meeting on Saturday to discuss the escalating conflict in Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia but was too split to issue a unanimous call for a ceasefire, diplomats said.

The meeting was the council's third emergency consultations on the crisis in as many days. Council envoys had been drafting an appeal for an end to the hostilities but were too far apart in their views to be able to come to an agreement.

"We've pretty much given up on the idea of issuing any kind of statement at this point," a Western diplomat told Reuters.

It was unlikely that the council would try to take any action at the moment, he said. Since Russia is a permanent veto-wielding council member, it can block everything.

After listening to the Georgian and Russian envoys hurl accusations of "ethnic cleansing" at each other on Friday, the Security Council remained deadlocked in a way that was reminiscent of the Cold War, with the United States and Britain firmly on Georgia's side against Russia.

Pro-Western Georgia earlier called for a ceasefire after Moscow's bombers widened an offensive to force Tbilisi's troops back out of the region in the Caucasus mountains.

Moscow says its military has been responding to a Georgian assault to retake South Ossetia. Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has said the two states were at war.

The United States and Britain have urged Russia to withdraw its troops from Georgia, while French President Nicolas Sarkozy proposed a three-point plan to end the fighting that would include a withdrawal of Russian and Georgian troops to the positions they held before the conflict started.

U.N. assistant secretary-general for peacekeeping operations Edmond Mulet was briefing the council behind closed doors about the situation on the ground in Georgia.

Council diplomats said that one of the problems they face is the lack of independent confirmation of Russian and Georgian statements about attacks and bombing raids.

The United Nations does have a small observer mission in another Georgian breakaway region, Abkhazia, so council members were hoping Mulet would have some reliable information.

Russian officials said the death toll in fighting that began on Thursday stood at 2,000. Georgian officials said that on their side, 129 people had been killed and 748 injured.

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