Rice Leads G-7 Call for Cease-Fire in Georgia

The world's seven largest economic powers urged Russia on Monday to accept an immediate cease-fire with Georgia and agree to mediation over the crisis as Russian forces continued advances into Georgian territory.

With conditions deteriorating despite similar repeated calls, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her colleagues from the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations pledged their support for a negotiated solution to the conflict that has been raging since Friday between the former Soviet republic and Russia, the State Department said.

"We want to see the Russians stand down," deputy spokesman Robert Wood told reporters. "What we're calling on is for Russia to stop its aggression."

Rice and the foreign ministers of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan spoke in a conference call early Monday, during which they noted that Georgia had agreed to a cease-fire. They agreed they wanted Russia to sign immediately as well, Wood said, adding that the phone call was one of more than 90 that Rice has made on the matter since Friday.

They ministers called on Russia to respect Georgia's borders and expressed deep concern for civilian casualties that have occurred and noted that Georgia had agreed to a cease-fire and said the ministers wanted to see Russia sign on immediately as urgent consultations at the United Nations and NATO were expected, according to Wood.

The seven ministers also backed a nascent mediation efforts led by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, whose country currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, and Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb, whose country now holds the chair of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, he said.

The Group of Seven, or G-7, is often expanded into what is known as the G-8, a grouping that includes Russia. Notably, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was not included in the call.

Wood said the United States was hopeful that the U.N. Security Council would pass a strong resolution on the fighting that called for an end to attacks on both sides as well as mediation. Prospects for such a statement were dim given that Russia, as a permanent member, can veto action by the 15-member body.