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S.Ossetia sets up steering group on independence referendum

MOSCOW, August 25 (RIA Novosti) - A steering group has been created in Georgia's breakaway province of South Ossetia to organize a referendum on its independence, the republic's press and information committee said Friday.

Unrecognized South Ossetia declared independence from Georgia following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, but the current Georgian leadership is determined to bring the separatist region back into the fold.

The committee said the referendum question would be: "Do you agree that the republic of South Ossetia should retain its present status as an independent state and be recognized by the international community?"

Murat Dzhioyev, the foreign minister of the unrecognized republic, said earlier that the referendum could be held by the end of this year.

He said South Ossetia's independence had been legitimized by two previous referendums - in 1992 and on April 8, 2001, when the republic's new constitution was adopted.

"But given the new political reality and the fact that the referendum issue is often raised these days, it is quite possible that our parliament will consider holding another independence referendum in the very near future," he said.

South Ossetia is one of two self-proclaimed republics in Georgia. The other is Abkhazia.

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