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Cheney says U.S. committed to Georgia's NATO membership 2008-09-04 17:03:04  

    TBILISI, Sept. 4 (Xinhua) --

U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney Thursday reaffirmed America's commitment to Georgia's bid for NATO membership as he landed here for a brief visit to extend U.S. support to the Caucasus nation following its recent conflict with Russia.

    "America is fully committed to Georgia's membership action plan for NATO and to its eventual membership in the alliance," Cheney said after meeting with Georgian leader Mikheil Saakashvili. "Georgia will be in our alliance," he said.

    Cheney is the highest-ranking official to visit Tbilisi since its conflict with Russia began in early August, when Tbilisi sent in troops to reclaim South Ossetia, a breakaway region of Georgia, and Russia quickly mounted a counter-offensive to drive out the Georgian troops.

    Cheney slammed Russia's military action as an "illegitimate" attempt to change Georgia's borders "by force," saying they "have cast grave doubt on Russia's intentions and on its reliability as an international partner."

    But Moscow has argued its military operations were intended to protect civilians and enforce peace in the region. The fighting ended with a ceasefire agreement brokered by France.

    Cheney's trip came on the heels of a White House announcement of a 1-billion-U.S.-dollar aid package to Tbilisi to "meet Georgia's humanitarian needs and to support its economic recovery."

    The assistance "will help the people of Georgia recover from the assault on their country, and continue to build a prosperous and competitive economy," U.S. President George W. Bush said in a statement Wednesday.

    More than half of the funds will be made available in the near term, Bush said.

    Prior to the new aid package, the United States has provided nearly 30 million dollars in aid to Georgia since the conflict erupted, including 1,200 tons of food and other relief supplies, according to the White House.

    After meeting Cheney, Saakashvili thanked the U.S. for its assistance to Georgia and said his country wants a dialogue with "all nations in the neighborhood and worldwide."

    Cheney stayed in Georgia for about four hours and headed on to Ukraine on his four-nation tour that will also take him to Italy.

    On Wednesday, he visited neighboring Azerbaijan, a resources-rich Caspian Sea nation that straddles major pipelines taking oil and gas to the West.

    At a meeting Wednesday with Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev, Cheney said that the United States has "deep and abiding interests" in the security of the region.

    "We must work with Azerbaijan and other countries in the Caucasus and Central Asia on additional routes for energy exports that ensure the free flow of resources," he said. "Energy security is essential to us all, and the matter is becoming increasingly urgent."

Editor: Bi Mingxin

Cheney: U.S. supports Georgia's NATO bid

Russia Today, September 5, 2008, 2:02

U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney visited Georgia's capital Tbilisi on Thursday and is now in Ukraine. The visit comes as U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said Washington will donate more than $US 1 billion worth of economic aid to Georgia.
At the start of his visit Cheney said that the U.S. has a deep and unbending interest in the region.

Cheney has again confirmed that the U.S. would support Georgia's efforts to join NATO.

He said that Russia was the "aggressor" in the recent South Ossetian war. His comments were not a surprise - he is one of the harshest critics of Moscow in the U.S. administration.

The Vice President also spoke about the promised $1 billion U.S. aid package to Georgia.
Condoleezza Rice on Tuesday said the cash would meet “Georgia's pressing humanitarian needs and facilitate its economic reconstruction.”

She added that the spending would be over several years, but would “begin now under President Bush and we believe strongly will endure during the next U.S. administration.”
"These funds will support reconstruction, humanitarian needs, the resettlement of displaced persons and other vital priorities. President Bush has also directed a range of American government agencies to give additional support to Georgia's economy by promoting greater economic trade and investment in this country," said Cheney at a news conference with President Sakkashvili on Wednesday.

A major concern to Moscow is that a large part of the weaponry used by Georgian troops was provided by the United States. It says that for several years the United States has been equipping and arming Georgian forces.

Recent American humanitarian aid packages sent to Georgia have raised speculation about clandestine arms shipments as they were delivered in locked containers and officials would not reveal their contents.

Meanwhile, many Americans are calling into question America's responsibility to Georgia, arguing that the U.S. government should take care of the economic situation at home first and that Georgia should solve its own problems and not rely on foreign aid.

Washington has already provided about $US 30 million in emergency humanitarian aid to Georgia since early August.

The vice president of the U.S. Defense and Foreign Policy studies, Ted Carpenter, says that Washington’s political involvement in Georgia could “poison” relations with Russia.

"I worry that the Bush administration is flirting with deeper involvement not only in Georgia, but in terms of trying to hem in Russia with an assortment of other allies and clients. And this could really poison the relationship between Washington and Moscow. No rational person in either country should want a second Cold War," he said.

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