LINK Wed Aug 13, 6:52 AM ET WASHINGTON (AFP) - US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice privately warned Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili to avoid a conflict with Russia during her trip to Tbilisi in July, The New York Times reported Wednesday. "She told him, in no uncertain terms, that he had to put a non-use of force pledge on the table," an unnamed senior US official who accompanied Rice on the trip told the newspaper. The message was delivered during a private dinner on July 9, the report added. Publicly, however, during the trip Rice blamed Russia as a source of continuing unrest in the country. Russia "needs to be a part of resolving the problem and solving the problems and not contributing to it," she said at a July 10 joint press conference with Saakashvili. Rice's July visit to Georgia came amid increased diplomatic confrontation between the Washington and Moscow over Georgia's desire to join NATO, as well as the status of the separatist provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Despite the public bravado, top US officials warned the Georgians not to allow the conflict to escalate through until hours before Georgia launched its attack, the newspaper reported. The top US envoy for the region, Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried, received a phone call from Georgia's foreign minister on Thursday saying their country was under attack, the report stated. "We told them they had to keep their unilateral cease-fire," the unnamed official told the newspaper. "We said, be smart about this, don't go in and don't fall for the Russian provocation. Do not do this'." Saakashvili did not inform Washington ahead of the offensive, senior US officials told the newspaper. "The Georgians figured it was better to ask forgiveness later, but not ask for permission first," an administration official told the newspaper. "It was a decision on their part. They knew we would say no'."