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EU warns Georgia, South Ossetia against raising tension

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union urged Georgia and South Ossetia Monday not to raise tensions around the rebel territory, calling for “unrestricted access” for EU monitors to both sides of its administrative boundary.

Tension has escalated in the region after South Ossetia accused Georgian forces of firing mortars at it over the weekend. Russia warned Tbilisi it reserved the right to use force to defend civilians a year after their five-day war.

The Georgian Interior Ministry said late Monday that three rocket-propelled grenades were fired from South Ossetia at a Georgian village near the boundary. No one was hurt.

The anniversary of the war falls this week, on August 7.

“The European Union notes with concern the recent accusations of shellings and other incidents on both sides of the South Ossetian administrative boundary line,” current EU president Sweden said in a statement.

“The EU urges all sides to refrain from any statement or action that may lead to increased tensions at this particularly sensitive time,” said the statement, issued on behalf of the EU’s 27 countries. Sweden is EU president until the end of 2009.

“The EU further calls on all sides to give the EUMM (European Union Monitoring Mission) unrestricted access to both sides of the South Ossetian administrative boundary line.”

In August 2008, Russia crushed a Georgian assault on South Ossetia after months of escalating tension, sending tanks deep into Georgia proper and shaking Western confidence in oil and gas routes running through the volatile South Caucasus.

Reporting by Jeremy Smith in Brussels and Margarita Antidze in Tbilisi