| DUSHANBE/PARIS (Reuters) - Russia faced diplomatic isolation over its military action against Georgia on Thursday, with its Asian allies failing to offer support and France saying EU leaders were considering sanctions.
Moscow accused the West of heightening tension by a naval build-up in the Black Sea, and said talk of punishing Russia for recognizing the independence of two breakaway Georgian regions was the product of a "sick" and "confused" imagination.
Russia's powerful Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said in a CNN interview he suspected someone in the United States provoked the Georgia conflict to make the situation more tense and create "a competitive advantage for one of the candidates fighting for the post of U.S. president." He did not elaborate.
Moscow has defied pressure from the United States and European powers to pull out of Georgia and looked east to its Asian allies, including China, for support at a regional summit.
The grouping, meeting in the Tajik capital Dushanbe, repeated a regular call for the "respect of territorial integrity" and did not follow Russia's lead on recognizing the two breakaway regions of Georgia.
Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, Russia's closest ex-Soviet ally, said the Kremlin "had no other moral choice but to" recognize the Georgian regions. His ambassador to Moscow said recognition could come soon, Russian agencies reported.
The crisis flared early this month when Georgian forces tried to retake the separatist province of South Ossetia and Russia launched an overwhelming counter-attack.
Russian forces swept the Georgian army out of the rebel region and are still occupying some areas of Georgia proper. On Tuesday Moscow announced that it was recognizing South Ossetia and another breakaway region, Abkhazia, as independent states.
The United States and Europe have demanded Russia respect a French-brokered ceasefire and withdraw all its troops from Georgia, including a disputed buffer zone imposed by Moscow.
France, the current EU president, has called a meeting of EU leaders on Monday to discuss the Georgian crisis, and its Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told reporters that "sanctions are being considered and many other means as well."
The United States, Georgia's closest Western ally, said it was premature to say whether it would consider sanctions against Russia, White House spokesman Dana Perino told reporters.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Kouchner had already suggested Russia might attack Moldova, Ukraine and the Crimea, and added: "That is a sick imagination, and probably that applies to sanctions as well. I think it is a demonstration of complete confusion."
Moscow expressed alarm at a naval build-up in the Black Sea, an area normally dominated by its southern fleet.
Two U.S. warships are already off the coast of Georgia to show support for their ally and Washington has ordered the flagship of its Sixth Fleet, the sophisticated joint command ship Mount Whitney, to the area, saying it will deliver humanitarian supplies.
A NATO official denied there was any build-up linked to the Georgia crisis, saying an alliance group of four warships were on a long-planned routine exercise.
Russia's military has spoken of up to 18 NATO vessels being in, or expected to be in, the Black Sea. It has responded by sending the flagship of its Black Sea fleet, the guided-missile cruiser Moskva, to the Abkhaz port of Sukhumi, less than 200 km (120 miles) to the north of where the two U.S. warships are sailing.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev failed to secure support for his action at a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a group linking Moscow with China and four ex-Soviet Central Asian states.
In its final declaration the grouping said "to rely exclusively on the use of force has no prospects and prevents finding a comprehensive resolution of local conflicts."
That phrase, and a call for respect of "the unity of the state and its territorial integrity," regularly feature in SCO statements to take into account Chinese sensitivities. It is also in line with Russia's reading of the Georgian conflict as Moscow says Tbilisi used force to solve a political problem.
On the Georgian conflict the summit's closing statement added: "The SCO states express grave concern in connection with the recent tensions around the South Ossetian issue and urge the sides to solve existing problems peacefully, through dialogue, and to make efforts facilitating reconciliation and talks."
Even China, which often sides with Russia in diplomatic disputes, issued a veiled criticism of Moscow's actions, saying it was "concerned about the latest changes in South Ossetia and Abkhazia" and calling for dialogue to resolve the issue.
Putin might not be as smart as we all might have given him cre