14 Aug 2008

US military to deliver aid to Georgia

11:00 am on 14 August 2008

President George Bush says the United States will use military aircraft and naval forces to deliver aid to Georgia following its conflict with Russia.

Mr Bush says American is launching what he calls a "vigorous and ongoing" humanitarian mission.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is going to France for talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy before travelling to the Georgian capital Tbilisi.

Mr Bush is also urging Russia to respect a ceasefire agreement with Georgia, brokered by France.

He says the US is concerned about reports of continuing Russian military action in Georgia.

The Pentagon said on Wednesday it does not plan to take control of Georgian airports or ports as part of the aid mission.

Dr Rice says Russia is facing deeper isolation if it violates the ceasefire with Georgia. The truce ended five days of conflict.

However, Russia's First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Lavrov says Washington is playing a dangerous game in the Caucasus by backing Georgia.

More fighting

Russia says its forces have dismantled and destroyed military hardware and ammunition at an undefended Georgian military base near Gori, 25km from the breakaway region of South Ossetia.

A Russian military statement said the action was taken to demilitarize the conflict zone.

However, the BBC says eye-witnesses have reported widespread shooting and looting by South Ossetian separatists.

The crisis erupted late on 7 August when Georgian forces bombarded South Ossetia to restore Tbilisi's control over the region, where the majority of people hold Russian passports.

Russia quickly became involved, bombing targets in Georgia and sending in troops. The BBC reports some 100,000 people are estimated to have been displaced by the conflict.

NZ view

A New Zealander living in Georgia says an international peacekeeping force is needed there.

Mike Saunders drove from the capital, Tbilisi, through Gori to collect his Georgian wife and baby, who were at a holiday home in the hills.

He says at the moment the situation is calm and everybody is getting on with their lives.

But he told Morning Report on Thursday he does not believe the region will be completely safe unless the international community gets involved.