- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 13, 2008

TBILISI, Georgia (AP) – Georgia’s president said early Wednesday that he agreed to the “general principals” of a plan for ending fighting with Russian troops in his country.

The cease-fire plan brokered by President Nicolas Sarkozy of France calls for both Russian and Georgian troops to return to their positions before fighting erupted around the breakaway province of South Ossetia last week.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev agreed to the proposal in a meeting with Sarkozy in Moscow. The French leader then traveled to Tbilisi where he spent several hours ironing it out with Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili.

Saakashvili emerged afterward and told reporters early Wednesday that “there should be a cease-fire.” He said he agreed to the “general principles” of the deal but said he saw no reason to sign it as it was only a “political document.” Sarkozy said the plan would be presented soon to EU foreign ministers in Brussels.

“We need legal details, Security Council resolutions, and we need more presence on the ground of international observers,” Saakashvili said.

Georgia attempted to retake control of South Ossetia last week, prompting a fierce Russian response of air strikes and ground attacks there and elsewhere in Georgia.

Some sticking points remained, including over Russian peacekeepers in Georgia’s separatist provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, where most residents hold Russian citizenship.

Saakashvili has said his government would declare the Russian peacekeepers occupying forces – but Medvedev insisted that the Russian peacekeepers will stay.

Sarkozy, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, said the EU could send peacekeepers to Georgia if all parties agreed to the plan.

“Could Europe be involved in a peacekeeping mission? Europe is available to do that of course,” Sarkozy said at a news conference in Moscow earlier.

The peace plan demands that Russia and Georgia immediately end all hostilities and allow free access to the region for humanitarian assistance.

Associated Press writer Paul Sonne contributed to this report from Moscow.

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