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Russians hail Georgia deal as big win

This week's deal to end the Russia-Georgia war may drive wedge between US and EU.

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That tone of satisfaction appears to be matched in Europe, where much of the media Tuesday lauded Sarkozy's ability to finesse the Kremlin and avoid what could have been an awkward breach between the EU and its biggest energy supplier.

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"[Sarkozy] can be proud: Not only did he reach a consensus among 27 EU members on Russia, the most divisive subject for members ... but made the Russian bear bow through diplomacy.... This is a demonstration that, united, Europe can obtain much," noted Jean Quatremer, a Brussels-based specialist on Europe writing in a weblog for the Parisian daily Liberation.

Some were more skeptical. Dominique Garraud in the west French daily La Charente Libre said the price of the accord is that "Europe must witness the dismemberment of Georgia."

Under the accord, talks will begin in Geneva on Oct. 15 to address long-term security issues in the wake of the conflict, and the return of refugees. Both sides have accused the other of "ethnic cleansing" during the brief August war, and their clashing arguments are set to play out in hearings that opened Monday at the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

The status of the two rebel statelets remains the key source of disagreement, and one that appears unlikely to be resolved in the near future.

Russia's Foreign Ministry pointedly announced that it had exchanged official notes of diplomatic recognition with Abkhazia and South Ossetia on Tuesday. Medvedev told Sarkozy that decision is "final and irreversible."

The two broke away from Georgia amid bitter civil wars after the Soviet Union collapsed, and have had de facto independence under Russian protection ever since, even though the international community recognizes them as part of Georgia's legal territory.

Moscow claims that Georgia's attempt to seize South Ossetia by force, which triggered the war, disqualified Tbilisi's claim on the tiny republic. But, speaking to journalists after meeting Sarkozy, Mr. Saakashvili vowed to win the rebel regions back. "We have a long way ahead toward restoration of Georgia's territorial integrity," he said. "There is no way Georgia will ever give up a piece of its sovereignty, a piece of its territory."

This won't be easy, however. Russia announced Tuesday that it will station about 7,600 troops in Georgia's separatist regions, a sharp increase from the number deployed before Moscow sent in troops last month.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said troops would stay in South Ossetia and Abkhazia for a long time to prevent any "repeat of Georgian aggression."

Sarkozy indicated the status of the two territories would be raised in the coming talks with Russia. "If the international discussion begins in Geneva [on Oct. 15], then there is something to discuss," he said.