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U.N. council to discuss Georgia-Russia dispute

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council was to discuss on Monday a Georgian request to hold a special meeting in the latest crisis between Tbilisi and Moscow over the breakaway Georgian region of Abkhazia.

The Georgian request, submitted last week, gained extra momentum after Tbilisi accused Russia of shooting down an unmanned Georgian reconnaissance plane at the weekend.

“We support this request,” U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad told reporters ahead of Monday’s Security Council session, which was expected to deal with the Georgian request along with other issues.

Georgia’s Foreign Ministry said a Russian air force jet had shot down the drone over Abkhazia on Sunday. The Russian air force denied the allegation.

Georgia’s U.N. Ambassador Irakli Alasania said that if the Security Council agreed to meet, Foreign Minister David Bakradze would take part and present evidence of the attack.

“Hopefully this meeting will be conducted tomorrow or in coming days,” Alasania said.

The Georgian envoy dismissed claims by Abkhazia’s separatist administration that its forces had shot down the drone, saying Tbilisi had clear evidence a Russian jet was responsible.

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Abkhazia, on the Black Sea coast, is internationally recognized as part of Georgia. It has been controlled by Moscow-backed separatists since a war in the early 1990s.

Tbilisi last week accused Moscow of a de facto annexation of Abkhazia, and a second breakaway Georgia region of South Ossetia, after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his government to establish closer ties with the separatists.

Alasania said the Russian move “means that they are effectively annexing parts of my country”.

He said Russia, which maintains a peacekeeping force in the region, had “crossed the ‘red line’ and completely discredited itself as a facilitator of the conflict settlement.”

The United Nations also has about 150 military observers and police in Georgia.

“Clearly what we’re going to bring up at the Security Council is that we want to have new arrangements in the peace format,” Alasania said.

Editing by Alan Elsner