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U.S. condemns "rocket attack" on Georgia

Reuters | August 9, 2007
David Morgan

The United States on Wednesday condemned what it termed "a rocket attack" against Georgia this week, and called on Moscow and Tbilisi to seek a peaceful resolution in Georgia's separatist South Ossetia region.

A missile, weighing about a metric ton, landed in a farmer's field about 65 km (40 miles) west of Tbilisi on Monday. It did not explode but sparked a war of words between Georgia and Russia, reigniting old tensions between the two former members of the Soviet Union.

"The U.S. condemns the August 6 rocket attack against Georgia," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said in a strongly worded statement issued late on Wednesday.

"We praise Georgia's continuing restraint in the face of this air attack and call for the urgent clarification of the facts surrounding this incident."

Russia has continued to deny any involvement in the incident, while the United States and the European Union have called on both sides to show restraint.

Earlier on Wednesday, a Georgian official who wished not to be identified said the missile was ditched by a Russian jet trespassing in Georgian air space after friendly forces in South Ossetia fired an anti-aircraft missile at the jet by mistake.

South Ossetia, the Russian-backed breakaway province of Georgia, is a deep cause of friction between the former Soviet states.

"The proximity of this attack to Georgia's separatist South Ossetia region and the violation of Georgia's airspace over the zone of conflict underscore the pressing need for progress toward peaceful resolution of the South Ossetia conflict," the State Department's McCormack said in the statement.

"We encourage Russia and Georgia to advance efforts to this end in a constructive spirit, even in the face of this latest attack."

He also called on "all relevant parties" to cooperate fully with investigations by Georgian government and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, a 56-nation security and rights watchdog.

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili said earlier this week that the missile was part of a pattern of Russian aggression against its neighbors across Europe and urged European states to condemn Moscow.

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