CHECKPOINT OUTSIDE GORI, GEORGIA  - Georgia said Monday it saw "no signs" of a promised Russian pullout of combat troops from deep inside its territory, amid growing Western pressure on Moscow to begin a withdrawal. "Unfortunately, we see no signs that the Russians are starting to pull out or even preparing to withdraw from Georgia," interior ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili told AFP. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev had assured his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy on Sunday that Russian regular forces "will begin withdrawing" from Monday, the Kremlin said. Russian troops early Monday were still holding the main checkpoint into the city of Gori, just 60 kilometres (37 miles) west of the capital Tbilisi, an AFP correspondent reported. Soldiers staffing a checkpoint two kilometres outside Gori were not allowing waiting media into the city, although four vehicles from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) were let through. The AFP correspondent saw a light Russian military presence on the road into Gori from the crossroads at Igoeti, 40 kilometres west of Tbilisi, including a half dozen Russian armoured personnel carriers and trucks. The continued presence of Russian troops over the last days inside and around Gori " which lies well outside of the region of South Ossetia that sparked the conflict " has infuriated the Georgian government. Another reporter near Tskhinvali, the capital of breakaway South Ossetia, saw Russian military vehicles parked on the roadside, accompanied by their crews, but no sign of a massive outflow of Russian troops. At a Russia-Georgia border crossing point further north, AFP witnessed traffic of military trucks, some of them carrying lumber and building supplies, both entering and coming out of Georgian territory. Despite the continued tension, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili called for talks with Russia to prevent a "definitive estrangement" between the two sides. In a televised address, Saakashvili repeated his demand for the immediate withdrawal of Russian forces " without delay". But he then struck a more conciliatory note, saying: "Let's then start thinking, negotiating how can we prevent the definitive estrangement of our two countries." "Let's resolve problems through civilised methods," said Saakashvili. However, new tensions gathered over Russia's longer-term military plans in the small but strategically located ex-Soviet republic. Russia plans to deploy a peacekeeping force of unspecified size that Georgian officials worry could turn into an open-ended occupation. US officials say Russia has deployed SS-21 tactical missile launchers to South Ossetia, putting the Georgian capital within their striking range, The New York Times reported. "There is no such notion any more in Georgia as Russian peacekeepers. There can be no Russian peacekeepers " these are just Russian forces," Saakashvili said at a press conference on Sunday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Merkel voiced strong support for Georgia's bid to join the NATO military alliance, saying: "Georgia will become a member of NATO if it wants to " and it does want to." US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who was to head Monday for crisis talks with NATO allies on the situation in Georgia, piled the pressure onto Russia to begin an immediate pullout. "Russia's reputation as a potential partner in international institutions, diplomatic, political, security, economic, is frankly, in tatters," she told NBC television. Sarkozy, in an article for French newspaper Le Figaro on Monday, called for the withdrawal "withscenes of desperation in Gori as a trickle of supplies began arriving. Rice heads to NATO meeting to rally support WASHINGTON (AFP) - US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice heads for Europe Monday for crisis talks with NATO allies on the situation in Georgia and to sign a key missile defense shield pact with Poland. Rice confirmed she would travel from the meeting in Brussels to Warsaw to ink the deal on installing US interceptor missiles on Polish territory, a move sure to further inflame tensions with Russia. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Rice would be traveling "to Brussels, Belgium and Warsaw, Poland, departing on August 18," Monday. "In Warsaw, Secretary Rice will sign a formal agreement with Poland on behalf of the United States for the establishment and operation of a ballistic missile defense interceptor site in Poland," McCormack said in a statement. While in Brussels, Rice will also meet EU leadership "to include Foreign Minister of France Bernard Kouchner, European Union High Representative Javier Solana, and European Commissioner for External Relations Benita Fererro-Waldner," he said. "We are going to help rebuild Georgia into a strong Georgian state," Rice told Fox News Sunday. "The Russians will have failed in their effort to undermine Georgia. And we will be looking at what we can do with the states around that region as well." Rice urged Russia to honor a pledge to withdraw its forces from Georgia, warning Moscow's reputation lay "in tatters." "There is a ceasefire and Russia is currently not in compliance with this ceasefire," Rice said, urging Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to keep his side of the French-brokered deal. Meanwhile, The New York Times reported Monday that Russia has deployed several SS-21 tactical missile launchers and supply vehicles to South Ossetia, putting the Georgian capital of Tbilisi in striking range. And a Georgian government spokesman said his country sees "no signs" that Russian forces are preparing to withdraw. Rice also castigated Moscow for the eruption of violence in the Caucasus saying it was now paying the price for its display of "disproportionate force against a small neighbor." The top US diplomat briefed US President George W. Bush over the weekend at his Texas ranch after her lightning visit to Georgia last week, where she persuaded Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili to sign the ceasefire deal. Moscow is furious at Georgia's attempt to join NATO, and alliance foreign ministers will meet on Tuesday to show their support for Georgia. But they remain divided on how to deal with a resurgent Moscow, with some western leaders unwilling to see ties with oil-rich Russia deteriorate any further. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Sunday before talks with Saakashvili: "Georgia will become a member of NATO if it wants to " and it does want to." Rice also said Friday during a press conference in Tbilisi that she was certain NATO would remain open to embracing both Georgia and Ukraine as members. She again hinted that Russia must face "consequences" for the five-day war which erupted as Russian forces sought to crush a Georgian army assault against pro-Moscow separatists in Georgia's region of South Ossetia. Rice did not specify what reprisals might follow, but US officials have mentioned in past days Moscow's bid to join several exclusive clubs such as the World Trade Organization. Others have hinted that Moscow could be barred from the G8, which may return to being the Group of Seven most industrialized nations as in 1997. Relations between Russia and Poland reached a new low after Moscow voiced fury at Warsaw's sudden announcement Thursday that it had reached a deal on the long-touted missile shield with the US. Poland, a former Soviet satellite and now staunch US ally which joined NATO in 1999 and the European Union in 2004, had earlier appeared reticent over the deal, but clinched it days after Russian tanks rolled into Georgia. Russian troops moving deeper into Georgia TBILISI (AFP) - Russian forces are heading deeper into Georgian territory from the central city of Khashuri despite a pledge to begin a pull-out from the country on Monday, a top Georgian official said. "Six Russian armoured vehicles are heading from Khashuri towards Sachkhere and another six towards Borjomi," interior ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili told AFP. Sachkhere, in central Georgia, about 50 kilometres (30 miles) north of Khashuri. Borjomi is about 25 kilometres southwest of the Khashuri. The movements could not be independently verified.