Georgia takes aim at Russia`s 2014 Winter Olympics

Georgia: Defeated by Russia in war, Georgia says it wants to force a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics in the Russian resort of Sochi near the Moscow-backed rebel region of Abkhazia.

The ex-Soviet republic, its military routed in five August days last year, hopes to emulate the US-led partial boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, which saw dozens of countries refuse participation.

"The Olympics ... are a symbol of peace," Akaki Minashvili, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Georgian parliament and an ally of President Mikheil Saakashvili, said this week.

"It`s simply contradictory for a country which in the 21st century changed borders by the use of force and ethnic cleansing to then host the Olympics."

The Games are due to be held in Russia`s Black Sea resort of Sochi, 20 km (12 miles) from Georgia`s breakaway Abkhazia region. Abkhazia expects to provide construction materials and housing for Russian workers, much to the annoyance of Georgia.

Russia recognised the sub-tropical sliver of coastline as independent in August last year, after repelling a Georgian assault on the country`s other rebel territory, South Ossetia.

Georgia`s attack began on the eve of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, after days of fatal clashes between Georgian forces and separatists and years of tension between Moscow and Tbilisi.

Russia responded with airstrikes and an offensive that saw tanks push to 40 km (25 miles) from the Georgian capital. Its forces have consolidated positions in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, despite a European Union ceasefire requiring forces to pull back to pre-war positions.

US ally Georgia, framing the conflict in Cold War terms, says the West must do more to make Russia loosen its grip.

But there is no sign the United States -- trying to "reset" relations with Moscow under President Barack Obama -- or Europe will risk ties with energy giant Russia by boycotting the Games, a pet project of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Bureau Report

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