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EU Postpones Fact-Finding Mission To Caucasus


ATHENS, (AFP) - The European Union has postponed a fact-finding mission to the Caucasus countries of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia originally scheduled to start Monday, the Greek foreign ministry said Saturday.

The postponement was due to elections in Armenia and the "indisposition of an Azerbaijani official," the office of Deputy European Affairs Minister Tassos Yannitsis told AFP. Azerbaijan President Heydar Aliev, 80, underwent surgery for inguinal hernia at a US clinic Monday. The EU trip will take place before the end of Greece's six-month presidency of the EU on June 30, an official here said.

In Armenia, President Robert Kocharian is under mounting pressure over the elections which handed him a second term in office but which Western election observers said were marred by widespread vote-rigging.

And Georgia's development has been blighted by the conflict over its breakaway region of Abkhazia amid Russian allegations that Chechen separatists have found refuge in a north Georgian gorge. Both crises have strained Tbilisi's relations with Moscow.

The European troika -- Denmark, Greece and Italy -- together with EU Foreign Affairs Commissioner Chris Patten, the EU's top foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Yannitsis were originally scheduled to travel to the troubled Caucasus region Monday through Thursday.
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