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Originally published Wednesday, December 17, 2008 at 2:50 PM

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US backs off meeting activist with KGB ties

Reversing itself yet again, the State Department said Wednesday it will not meet with an activist from the Russian-backed breakaway region of Georgia who had regular conversations with a KGB official.

Associated Press Writers

WASHINGTON —

Reversing itself yet again, the State Department said Wednesday it will not meet with an activist from the Russian-backed breakaway region of Georgia who had regular conversations with a KGB official.

Last week the department called off a meeting with South Ossetian human rights activist Lira Tskhovrebova. Tuesday the department announced it was back on. By Wednesday, officials said Tuesday's announcement resulted from an internal miscommunication.

Tskhovrebova came to the United States to draw American attention to the brief war in August between Russia and Georgia over the breakaway region. She has urged the U.S. to place conditions on foreign aid to Georgia, which is a U.S. ally.

The confusion at the State Department followed publication of an article by The Associated Press about intercepted telephone conversations between Tskhovrebova and an official in South Ossetia's security service still known by the Soviet-era acronym KGB.

Tskhovrebova has denied working for the South Ossetian KGB and maintains that the recordings reflect innocent conversations with a family friend.

Last week, a deputy assistant secretary of state, Matthew Bryza, canceled a meeting between his staff and Tskhovrebova on grounds that he doubted her independence.

Mark Toner, a spokesman for the department's European affairs bureau said Tuesday's announcement that a meeting would take place was based on inaccurate information. He said that a State Department official may attend a dinner hosted by George Mason University for Tskhovrebova's delegation, but that no separate meeting would take place.

Tskhovrebova expressed disappointment that the State Department would not meet with her.

"I am disappointed that the State Department, under pressure from Georgia, is refusing to listen to our eyewitness accounts," Tskhovrebova said in a statement through a spokesman. "They've met with Georgia's lobbyists dozens of times. I thought it was part of the State Department's human rights responsibilities to hear from victims of war."

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