Bush flays Russian bombing of Georgia

President George W Bush has condemned the Russian military offensive against Georgia, saying the violence in South Ossetia was unacceptable and Moscow's bombing disproportionate.

President George W Bush has condemned the Russian military offensive against Georgia, saying the violence in South Ossetia was unacceptable and Moscow's bombing disproportionate.

Bush revealed yesterday that he had strong words with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin during last Friday's Olympic Games opening ceremony in Beijing, when the pair were seen and pictured talking animatedly.

"I said this violence is unacceptable," Bush told US broadcaster NBC. "I expressed my grave concern about the disproportionate response of Russia and that we strongly condemn bombing outside of South Ossetia.

"I was very firm with Vladimir Putin ... just like I was firm with Russian President (Dmitry Medvedev)."

Bush made his remarks in a live interview with NBC in Beijing on the final day of his visit to watch the Olympics, during which the crisis in the Georgian rebel region of South Ossetia has loomed large.

"I hope it can be resolved peacefully," said Bush, whose administration has been a strong supporter of Georgia's pro-Western government and supported efforts to bring the country within Nato, much to Russia's annoyance.

The US has called for an immediate cease-fire in the conflict, and a return to the status quo that existed before the fighting erupted last week.

But Russia yesterday kept up its attacks on Georgia, brushing aside appeals for a cease-fire after its forces swept through South Ossetia.

Russian warplanes bombed the base of a special forces battalion and an air traffic control centre in the suburbs of the Georgian capital Tbilisi early yesterday, interior ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili said.

Just ahead of Bush's interview, US Vice President Dick Cheney's spokesman released a statement in which the US expressed solidarity with Georgia and warned Russia against continued aggression.

Cheney made his remarks in a telephone conversation with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili on Sunday, according to the statement received in Beijing.

"The vice president praised President Saakashvili for his government's restraint, offers of cease-fire and disengagement of Georgian forces from the zone of conflict in the South Ossetian region of the country," said the statement from Lee Anne McBride, Cheney's press secretary.

Russian planes have bombed several targets across Georgia. - Sapa-AFP

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