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Asia Crisis

Georgia wants U.N. peacekeepers to halt conflict

LONDON, Aug 12 (Reuters) - Georgia is calling for a United Nations' peacekeeping force to intervene to halt its conflict with Russia, a Georgian diplomat said.

"The statements and expressions of good intentions didn't work. We need a very, very forceful action," Giorgi Badridze, acting head of the Georgian Embassy in London, said when asked what Georgia wanted the European Union to do to try to stop the crisis over the breakaway region of South Ossetia.

"We need troops (on the) ground," he told Reuters in an interview late on Monday.

"Let it be a U.N.-mandated international force, ideally EU," he said.

Russia, as a permanent member of the Security Council, would have the ability to veto any such move.

Badridze said that, ideally, the peacekeeping force should be on the border between Russia and Georgia. "Russian troops have to be thrown out of Georgia, from its entire territory," he said.

The fighting erupted on Thursday when Georgia sent forces to retake South Ossetia, a pro-Russian region that threw off Georgian rule in the 1990s and declared itself independent, albeit without international recognition.

Moscow, which supports South Ossetia's independence, responded by sending its troops into Georgia.

The conflict escalated quickly and, by Monday, Georgia appealed for international help and said its battered forces had retreated to defend its capital city, Tbilisi.

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said earlier he had agreed to a plan proposed by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner under which hostilities would end, a mixed peacekeeping force would be deployed -- replacing the purely Russian one -- and troops would return to pre-conflict positions. (Reporting by Adrian Croft; Editing by Matthew Jones)

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