Tbilisi welcomes U.S. defense support

Feb. 1, 2012 at 10:24 AM
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 1 (UPI) -- U.S. commitments to support Georgia's self-defense capabilities are important messages for constituents, the Georgian president said.

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili met in the Oval Office with U.S. President Barack Obama and told White House reporters that he welcomed Washington's commitments to Georgia's defense.

"We are very grateful for elevating our defense cooperation further and talking about Georgia's self-defense capabilities and developing it, because that's also of course an important message back to my nation," he said.

Obama said he backed Georgia's aspirations to join the NATO alliance, noting Tbilisi was one of the "most dedicated contributors" to the international military effort in Afghanistan among non-NATO members.

Protests turned violent early last year during what some dubbed Georgia's Silver Revolution as older residents in the former Soviet republic demonstrated against the high cost of living.

Some protesters argued that life was better under the Soviet Union and members of the opposition charged that government officials were silencing their frustrations.

Russia lashed out at U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her visit to European allies late last year. Amid complaints about a European defense shield, the Kremlin said its war with Georgia in 2008 prevented NATO from expanding eastward.

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