Saakashvili Courts Abkhazia

TBIILISI, Georgia -- Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili offered a power-sharing deal to the breakaway Abkhazia region on Friday, days before NATO members meet to consider Georgia's membership.

Saakashvili, seeking to move Tbilisi out of Moscow's orbit, hopes that the NATO summit in Bucharest this week will give Georgia a Membership Action Plan setting out steps to joining the alliance.

But some NATO members in Europe say Georgia's separatist conflicts make it unstable and it should be excluded.

Saakashvili offered Abkhazia the post of Georgia's vice president, free trade zones, parliamentary representation, a unified customs service and the integration of security services.

"At the same time they will have full autonomy locally. We offer the Abkhaz a resumption of talks on all issues," Saakashvili told political scientists at the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies.

Saakashvili has offered Abkhazia and South Ossetia a large degree of autonomy, but the proposals he made Friday went further.

Abkhazia's foreign minister, Sergei Shamba, said the offer was "unacceptable." He said a referendum in Abkhazia had showed an overwhelming number of Abkhaz residents wanted independence.

Underlining the challenge facing Georgia at the NATO summit, the Organization for Security in Cooperation in Europe on Friday expressed concern about a spate of bombings in South Ossetia in the past month.

Temur Iakobashvili, Georgia's state minister for reintegration, said the bombings in South Ossetia were an attempt to discredit Tbilisi's NATO bid.

On Thursday, a car bomb planted in the car of South Ossetia's chief prosecutor killed a passenger and wounded the driver, but the official was not in the vehicle at the time.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned Georgia on Friday against trying to use NATO membership as a tool to regain control over Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Reuters, AP