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Tensions rise between US and Russia over Geor -

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ELEANOR HALL: The conflict in Georgia is threatening to bring relations between the United States
and Russia to its lowest point since the Cold War.

The Bush administration has ruled out using military force but it is using strong language to
insist that Russia adhere to the ceasefire and withdraw its troops.

The US Defence Chief Robert Gates warned Moscow that its relationship with the US could be damaged
for years if it doesn't step back from what he called its "aggressive" actions in Georgia.

Russia has retaliated by questioning whether US supplies being transported into the Georgian
capital are purely humanitarian.

Jennifer Macey has our report.

JENNIFER MACEY: A war of words has broken out between the United States and Russia over the
Georgian conflict.

The US President George W. Bush was being diplomatic.

GEORGE W. BUSH: My call, of course, is for the territorial integrity of Georgia to be respected and
for the ceasefire agreement to be honoured.

JENNIFER MACEY: But the tone coming from his Chief of Defence, Robert Gates, was much stronger.

ROBERT GATES: If Russia does not step back from its aggressive posture and actions in Georgia, the
US-Russian relationship could be adversely affected for years to come.

JENNIFER MACEY: The US is urging Russia to withdraw troops from Georgia immediately. But Russian
soldiers still occupy parts of the country.

They maintain control of the city of Gori; west of the capital Tbilisi and close to the region of
South Ossetia where fighting broke out last week.

The Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili says Russian troops still physically control one third
of his country.

And he's accusing Russia of genocide.

MIKHAIL SAAKASHVILI: In front of the eyes of the mankind, Russian troops are perpetrating ethnic
cleansing brutally, mercilessly in my country and in my territory and we cannot do anything about
it.

JENNIFER MACEY: Russia says it has begun handing back the town of Gori, but insists that its troops
remain in the area as peacekeepers.

The French-brokered peace deal gives Russian peacekeepers the right to patrol beyond South Ossetia,
but Russia's ambassador to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, says Russia won't support a plan
that includes Georgian soldiers in an international peacekeeping force.

VITALY CHURCKIN: There were Russian peacekeepers there, there are Georgian peacekeepers, but then
they turned their weapons against their Russian comrades, peacekeepers, and they all started firing
on them. So after that, of course, we cannot see any role for the Georgian peacekeepers there.

JENNIFER MACEY: And a senior Russian military officer, Colonel General Anatoly Nagovitsyn, has
questioned the type of support the US is giving to Georgia.

ANATOLY NAGOVITSYN (translated): Why not to ask the American side to let you check if this cargo is
really a humanitarian one on these cargo planes? Why not lift up this cover to see what is really
happening there?

JENNIFER MACEY: The US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is heading to Tbilisi today to secure
Georgia's signature to the French-brokered agreement, but she's not going to Moscow.

The former secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, told Radio National that she thinks it is a
mistake

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: I don't think it's a snub, I think it's a lost opportunity. I think that she
should be going to Russia. They are the ones that are at the centre of this. I think that the
statement by President Bush, I personally believe should have come earlier and I do think that she
should be going to Russia also.

JENNIFER MACEY: Russia expert Graeme Gill, a professor of government and public administration at
the University of Sydney, agrees.

GRAEME GILL: Well in some ways they're trying to ring the Cold War bell but it was expected that
this sort of response would be forthcoming from Washington because clearly the Americans seem to
have been caught by surprise by the events in Georgia or at least by the vigorous nature of the
Russian response to Georgian actions and what they're now trying to do is to scrabble to, in a
sense, cover their backs from the criticism that they are being soft on Russia because clearly that
criticism does have a very strong constituency within parts of the US.

ELEANOR HALL: That's Professor Graeme Gill from the University of Sydney ending that report by
Jennifer Macey.