Russian troops on Saturday continued manning positions deep inside Georgia, keeping a grip on a strategic port, as Europe pressed Moscow to pull back further and allow international observers.
Russia withdrew tanks, artillery and hundreds of troops from the heart of Georgia on Friday, saying it had now fufilled all obligations under a French-brokered agreement aimed at ending the two-week-old conflict.
But Russian troops were still controlling access to the western port of Poti and also established a checkpoint just 10 kilometers north of the key city of Gori.
Acting as chair of the European Union, French President Nicolas Sarkozy asked Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev to withdraw his forces from a key road linking Poti to Senaki, in western Georgia, his office said in Paris.
Sarkozy and Medvedev agreed during a telephone conversation on the need for an "international mechanism" in the area south of the breakaway republic of South Ossetia, a statement said.
The Kremlin separately said it was ready to cooperate with the European security body, the OSCE, to monitor a buffer zone near South Ossetia.
The West sees the presence of military monitors from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe as critical to ensuring the success of the EU-brokered ceasefire that ended fighting between Georgia and Russia over South Ossetia.
France joined Britain, the United States, NATO and other Western powers to demand Russia pull back further from Georgian territory but a top Russian general earlier rejected the criticism.
"All activities of the Russian peacekeeping contingent are based on the six principles that were signed in agreement by the presidents of Russia and France," said General Anatoly Nogovitsyn, the deputy chief of staff, in Moscow.
He said Russian trorops would patrol and keep control over Poti, Georgia's main commercial port.
Russian troops first poured into Georgia on Aug 8 to repel a Georgian assault on the breakaway region of South Ossetia, smashing the country's small US-trained army.
They then fanned out through Abkhazia, another pro-Moscow breakaway region on the Black Sea, and far into the Georgian heartland.
Russian soldiers backed up by four tanks were still in place on a bridge on the road heading from Poti to the city of Senaki further east and Batumi to the south.
Some 500 Georgians expressed outrage over the continued presence of Russian troops in Poti, going up to the post waving Georgian flags and shouting "Russians go home!"
"They want to keep these checkpoints, as we know, but they have no legal basis for it," Georgian National Security Council secretary Alexander Lomaia said.
Two Russian armoured vehicles and lorries were Saturday still controlling a checkpoint in the village of Karaleti outside Gori on the road to the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali.
The troops, whose uniform was marked with the insignia of peacekeepers, were not letting traffic further north without Russian military accreditation. They had erected concrete roadblocks and fenced off the area with razor-wire.
Georgian police on Friday retook control of Gori and by Saturday afternoon there were no Russian checkpoints remaining on the east-west highway between Tbilisi and the central city of Khashuri.
Moscow retains full control of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and says it has the right to establish an "area of responsibility" far beyond taking in stretches of the highway linking Tbilisi to Poti.
US Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez warned Russia that its behaviour in Georgia had put at risk its place among the Group of Eight industrialized nations as well as its accession to the World Trade Organization.
"Until now, the U.S. supported Russia's integration in the world community. We have admitted Russia to the Group of Eight and we have saluted and encouraged its wish to join the WTO," Gutierrez told German weekly Der Spiegel.
"All this is now at stake."
NATO also insisted that Russian forces must retreat to pre-conflict positions. "Our position is that they should pull out to the sixth of August positions," the alliance's spokeswoman Carmen Romero said.
The speedy military victory over Georgia, which is pressing for membership of NATO, stunned Western powers and plunged relations between Russia and the West to their lowest point since the end of the Cold War.
The latest focus of international tension was the Black Sea, where NATO naval exercises are taking place and a US destroyer was due to arrive Sunday in Georgia with what the Pentagon says are humanitarian aid supplies.
With its army humiliated and Russian troops openly shielding the separatists in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Georgia looks increasingly unlikely to recover its territory.
Russia's two houses of parliament were due Monday to discuss appeals from South Ossetia and Abkhazia for recognition from Moscow of their independence.© Wire reports