News in Brief

Nicaragua Recognizes Rebels

Nicaragua on Wednesday became the first country after Russia to recognize the independence of Georgia's breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Ekho Moskvy radio reported.

The Latin American nation's decision was confirmed by an official with the Russian Embassy in Nicaragua,Valery Bobrov, the report said.

Russia recognized the independence of the two regions Aug. 26, drawing sharp criticism from the West. Belarus and Venezuela have supported the decision but stopped short of following suit. (MT)

NATO Backs Baltic States

BRUSSELS -- NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and a panel of NATO ambassadors will hold two days of talks starting Sept. 15 with Georgian leaders in Tbilisi.

NATO spokesman James Appathurai said plans for the visit preceded the Georgia war.

Also, Appathurai said NATO states back a U.S. call to show the alliance is prepared to defend Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania from any attack after Russia's intervention in Georgia. (AP, Reuters)

Transdnestr Leader Visits

SOCHI -- Russia will keep pushing for a deal between Moldova and its breakaway Transdnestr region, the Kremlin said Wednesday.

President Dmitry Medvedev met separatist leader Igor Smirnov in Sochi on Wednesday.

"It was agreed that the process of negotiations will continue with the participation of the three sides for the time being at a working level, but also possibly at a higher level," Kremlin spokeswoman Natalya Timakova told reporters. (Reuters)

EU Urges Troop Withdrawal

BRUSSELS -- The European Parliament strongly urged Russia on Wednesday to "honor all its commitments" to withdraw its troops under a cease-fire agreement with Georgia.

The European Union's resolution also criticized the alleged use of cluster bombs by Georgian and Russian military officials during their war last month and condemned alleged looting in Georgia carried out by Russian forces and allied militia groups. (AP)

Lavrov to Have Shield Talks

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will travel to Poland next week for talks on a plan, opposed by Moscow, to station parts of the U.S. missile shield on Polish soil, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said Wednesday.

"This visit is planned," spokesman Andrei Nesterenko told a news conference. "I am convinced the topic of Poland signing [an agreement on] the U.S. missile-shield deployment will be raised." (Reuters)