U.S. urges Russia to back down in Georgia clash

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Russia should “back down” in the escalating fight with neighboring Georgia over the breakaway province of Abkhazia, White House national security adviser Stephen Hadley said on Wednesday.

“Obviously we’re very concerned what Russia is doing in Georgia in a series of actions which we have labeled and said are provocative,” Hadley told reporters during a briefing about U.S. President George W. Bush’s upcoming Middle East trip.

“We think Russia needs to back down from those items,” he said. Moscow sent more troops to the region and has been accused of shooting down an unarmed, unmanned aerial vehicle over Georgia. It has also boosted ties with separatist regions of the former Soviet Republic.

Georgia has tried to reassert control over Abkhazia and South Ossetia since they broke away in the early 1990s. Russia has said its troop increases aimed to counter an attack planned by Georgia on Abkhazia and it denied downing the drone.

Still, Hadley said the United States does not expect relations with Russia under Dmitry Medvedev, who was sworn in as its new president earlier on Wednesday, to change.

“We expect continuity in Russian foreign policy. That means there will be areas where we agree and there are going to be areas where we disagree,” he said. Bush met Medvedev last month in Sochi, Russia and they are expected to meet again in July.

Reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky, editing by Sandra Maler and Alan Elsner