Biden meets with Georgian Russian leaders

Feb. 8, 2009 at 8:48 PM
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MUNICH, Germany, Feb. 8 (UPI) -- Vice President Joe Biden returned to the United States Sunday after cordial, yet separate, meetings with Georgia's president and Russia's deputy prime minister.

Following his meeting with Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, Biden answered yes when asked if the United States still supported Georgia's eventual entry into NATO.

"I'm in favor of Georgia's continued independence and autonomy," Biden said. "That's a decision for Georgia to make."

Responding to Biden's comments Saturday that the United States will continue to develop missile defense, but would do so in consultation with its NATO allies and Russia, Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov said it was a positive step.

The Russian official said he especially liked Biden's statement that it was time to "press the reset button" in relations between Russia and the United States, RIA Novosti reported.

Russia had vehemently opposed efforts by the Bush administration to place elements of an anti-ballistic missile system in Poland and the Czech Republic, rejecting claims it was meant to counter "rogue states" such as Iran and instead claiming it was meant to counter Russia's nuclear capacity.

While some had expected Biden to announce a review of the missile defense plans, he did not go that far. Still, he left room for unspecified changes in the plan, The New York Times reported.

During a refueling stop in Britain Sunday, Biden met with a handful of U.S. Air Force personnel and their families. He said he thought the message he delivered in Munich "seemed to be greeted pretty well."

"I think the world is ready for a new look," he said. "There's a real sense of excitement at President Obama."

Biden arrived at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., aboard Air Force Two just before 7 p.m. EST Sunday.

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