Thursday, August 14, 2008

Bush: Cease-fire should be honored in Georgia

Bush: Cease-fire should be honored in Georgia
By DEB RIECHMANN – 4 hours ago

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Bush, fresh off a CIA briefing about the fighting in Georgia, renewed his call Thursday for a cease-fire to be honored in the former Soviet republic.

Bush also repeated his demand that Russia respect the "territorial integrity" of Georgia.

The president said he looked forward to hearing directly from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at his Texas ranch on Saturday. U.S. officials said Rice, who has been in France meeting leaders there, will ask Georgia to sign a French-brokered cease-fire agreement with Russia that includes concessions to Moscow but preserves Georgian borders.

Bush spoke at CIA headquarters after receiving briefings on the war on terror and the grim situation in Georgia, where a tenuous cease-fire is in place after days of violence. The White House did not disclose details of his briefings.

"I call for the territorial integrity of Georgia to be respected and the cease-fire agreement to be honored," he said. "And we will be working this issue throughout the coming weeks. And people out here at the agency have been incredibly helpful."

Russian forces entered Georgia last week, and troops and tanks still were there Thursday despite the cease-fire, raising fears that Russia was trying to grab territory. Bush said intelligence officials were analyzing the situation on the ground. He said they briefed him on "different possibilities that could develop in the area and the region."

Bush, who postponed his vacation in Texas by a day to monitor the fast-changing developments in Georgia, now plans to depart on Friday.

Late Thursday afternoon, White House press secretary Dana Perino assessed that "Largely, the violence has died down over the last 24 hours" in Georgia. She cautioned against putting too much stock in a report that a column of Russian tanks and other vehicles was moving deeper into Georgia. All such initial reporting must be checked out, Perino said.

Pressed on Defense Secretary Robert Gates' comment that Russia should face consequences for its military strikes against a sovereign state, Perino said there are consequences for Russia's international reputation.

"Perhaps they don't care," she said of Russia's leaders. As for specific punishments by the United States against Russia, Perino said, "I would not expect anything immediate."

Bush was supposed to spend 45 minutes having lunch with employees at the CIA, including those who have been with the agency for fewer than five years. Instead, he spent more than two hours with them.

"People here work long and hard hours," Bush said afterward, standing alongside CIA Director Michael Hayden and CIA Deputy Director Stephen Kappes. "They're smart, capable, and they deserve the nation's thanks."

Bush signed autographs for employees, including a $5 bill one employee handed to him, said CIA spokesman Mark Mansfield. He also received a commemorative coin from a CIA analyst who worked on U.S. allegations that a site in a remote part of the Syrian desert, which Israel destroyed last year, was a near-finished plutonium-producing reactor built with North Korean help. The bronze-colored coins, with the words "No core. No war," were given to employees who worked on the project.

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