Georgia has said it will establish a headquarters for Abkhazia's government-in-exile in the Kodori gorge which connects the region with the rest of Georgia.

The gorge is within the province of Abhazia but is not claimed by the separatists. It was re-captured by the Georgian government in a recent military offensive.

"For the first time since 1993 Georgia will exercise constitutional order in the territory of Abkhazia," said Mikhail Saakashvili, Georgia's president in a televised address.

The pro-Tbilisi government fled Abkhazia during a 1992-1994 war and has since been based in the Georgian capital.

The separatists – who are backed by neighbouring Russia – say that Tbilisi is encroaching on their territory and is planning a military offensive against them.

Tough actions

"If the so-called Abkhaz government-in-exile is set up in the Kodori gorge that will be a trip wire for tough actions by us and we will have no choice but to use force," Sergei Shamba, the separatist foreign minister, said.

Abkhazia is one of two separatist regions – along with South Ossetia - which Georgia's Saakashvili vowed to bring under Tbilisi's control after he came to power in 2004.

He has said he will restore the government’s authority by "peaceful means."

Frozen conflicts

Abkhazia is one of the so-called "frozen conflicts" that flared when the Soviet Union broke up.

Observers fear the tensions could restart the fighting and drag in Russian troops who are stationed in the region as peacekeepers.

"All the indications are that the Georgian authorities are trying to resolve the problems of South Ossetia and Abkhazia by force," Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, told the Interfax news agency.