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Russia Agrees to Georgia Troop Pullback; U.S. Cancels Nuclear Deal

After talks with visiting French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Moscow, Medvedev said that 200 EU monitors will be deployed to South Ossetia no later than Oct. 1. International talks on the conflict in Georgia would be held beginning Oct. 15 in Geneva, the Associated Press reported.

Nearly a month after the five-day war, Russian troops remain entrenched deep inside parts of Georgian territory. Russia says the troops are peacekeepers and that they are allowed under the accord to help maintain security around the pro-Russian Georgian enclaves.

While Medvedev said troops would withdraw from inside Georgia proper, the fate of Russian troops positioned within South Ossetia and Abkhazia remains unclear. The BBC reported that Medvedev made no specific mention of plans to withdraw troops from the two provinces.

The Russian leader said that his troops would pull out “from the zones adjacent to South Ossetia and Abkhazia to the line preceding the start of hostilities,” according to the BBC.

Moscow has recognized the two regions as independent states, a move denounced in Georgia and abroad. On Monday, Medvedev said Russia would not revisit that decision.

“Our decision is irrevocable, the two new states have come to existence,” Medvedev said. “This is a reality which all our partners, including our EU partners, will have to reckon with.”

Sarkozy told reporters Russia had agreed to remove checkpoints around Georgia’s Poti port — a top priority for the West — within a week.

“In one week, the checkpoint (is to be) dismantled. In one month, Russian military forces (are to be) outside Georgian territory, with the exception naturally of Ossetia and Abkhazia,” said Sarkozy, according to Reuters.

France currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU, and Sarkozy has headed up European efforts to broker a solution to the dispute.

Medvedev had continued sharp words for Georgia’s leader, Mikhail Saakashvili, claiming that the Georgian president had received “a blessing, either in the form of a direct order or silent approval” from the United States to launch an “idiotic action” against a separatist uprising in South Ossetia last month.

“People died and now all of Georgia must pay for that,” Medvedev said.

The dispute between Russia and U.S.-allied Georgia has deeply strained relations between Moscow and the West.

In a sign of heightened U.S. displeasure with the recent Russian actions in the region, President Bush on Monday canceled a much-heralded civilian nuclear cooperation deal with Moscow.

President Bush had sent the agreement — which was designed to foster both commercial nuclear trade and the exchange of civilian nuclear research — to Congress for approval in May, after a long-awaited signing by the two nations that capped two years of tough negotiations.

The nuclear deal was believed to face long odds for approval on Capitol Hill this year, but the Bush administration still decided to actively withdraw the measure.

“We make this decision with regret,” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in a statement read by spokesman Sean McCormack, according to the AP. “Unfortunately, given the current environment, the time is not right for this agreement.”

The reversal of the nuclear pact comes as the United States moved forward with a $1 billion package of aid for Georgia, a former Soviet state.

In a statement to Congress detailing the freezing of the nuclear pact, President Bush cited “recent actions by the government of the Russian Federation incompatible with peaceful relations with its sovereign and democratic neighbor Georgia.”

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