US: Russian Peacekeepers Get Wider Georgia Mandate

PARIS — A U.S. official says Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will ask Georgia to sign a cease-fire agreement with Russia that includes apparent concessions to Moscow but preserves Georgian borders.

Under the agreement, Russian peacekeepers would have the express right to patrol beyond two disputed border regions at the heart of the week-old conflict. The U.S. official says there are important clarifications still to be made and the U.S. would support additional powers for the Russian peacekeepers only if they were limited, well defined and temporary.

The official said Russia demanded the expanded mandate for its peacekeepers.

At least five explosions have been heard near the Georgian city of Gori today, as plans for Russia to withdraw troops amid a cease-fire appear uncertain.

It’s not clear if the blasts were the result of a renewal of fighting between Georgian and Russian forces, but they sounded similar to mortar shells and occurred not long after a tense confrontation between Russian and Georgian troops on the edge of the city.