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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

One Dead in Ossetian Gunfire

TBILISI, Georgia -- A Georgian peacekeeper was killed as Georgia's breakaway province of South Ossetia endured another night of gunfire and artillery volleys, officials said Tuesday.

The death came a day after two Georgian peacekeepers were killed in separatist gunfire near ethnic Georgian villages in South Ossetia.

Overnight exchanges of fire have persisted despite a cease-fire agreement Friday, posing a tough challenge to President Mikheil Saakashvili. The Georgian leader has pledged to bring the rebel region back into the fold after more than a decade of de facto independence.

Georgian Interior Ministry spokesman Guram Donadze said Tuesday that government peacekeepers protecting ethnic Georgian villages in the separatist province had come under gun and mortar fire from the Ossetian side overnight. One peacekeeper was killed and two others were wounded, he said.

Alan Elbakiyev, a spokesman for the separatist government of South Ossetia, said Georgian artillery had shelled the area around Ossetian villages overnight but inflicted no casualties. He said the shelling ended after separatist authorities contacted the Georgian government.

Elbakiyev spoke of unidentified militants in the area who are trying to provoke hostilities by firing at Georgian and Ossetian positions. The Georgian side alleges that mercenaries including Russian fighters are involved, while the Ossetians blame Georgian provocateurs.

Elbakiyev said South Ossetian and Georgian officials have agreed to cooperate in tracking them down.

Georgian and South Ossetian officials held talks in Georgia's capital, Tbilisi, later Tuesday to discuss ways of easing tensions.

Saakashvili on Tuesday sent a message to global leaders asking to help convene an international conference on South Ossetia -- a move likely to vex Russia, which is wary of Western activity in Georgia.

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov on Tuesday dismissed statements by Georgian officials that "imperialist" circles in Russia were fueling the South Ossetian conflict as "nonsense."

"We don't need a war near our borders," Ivanov said.