Georgian Leader Wants Russians Out

MAASTRICHT, Netherlands -- Georgia's Acting President Nino Burdzhanadze called Monday for a swift withdrawal of Russian troops and said her country had earned the right to be integrated into Europe after its peaceful revolution.

With Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov looking on, Burdzhanadze accused Russia of undermining Georgian sovereignty by supporting separatist provinces and by hosting their leaders last week in Moscow.

That meeting "ruined all the positive messages" by Russia when it helped broker the resignation of former President Eduard Shevardnadze, she told a meeting of foreign ministers of the 55-nation Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe.

It was Burdzhanadze's debut appearance outside Georgia since the popular uprising sparked by the elections denounced by the opposition as fraudulent.

Burdzhanadze held out an offer of better relations, saying the new leadership "is ready to step out of the box of historical tragedies" with Russia.

Ivanov met last Thursday in Moscow with the leaders of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, two provinces that declared themselves independent republics in the early 1990s. They have not been internationally recognized.

Burdzhanadze later met privately with Ivanov in a small conference room. Details of the meeting were not available. She also was likely to meet U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell on Tuesday, the final day of the conference.

She called on Russia to keep its commitment to withdraw military bases from Georgian territory. Only two of four bases have been dismantled since then, and negotiations have stalled on the timing of pulling out the remaining bases.

Burdzhanadze said the removal of the bases would be "a serious contribution to the establishment of a lasting peace in the Caucasus."