Colin Powell: US doesn't want Georgia to have problems with Russia

Newly inaugurated Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili and US Secretary of State Colin Powell met in Tbilisi yesterday. After their meeting they held a joint press conference.

Powell said that Saakashvili's inauguration (which took place this past Saturday and Sunday) was a historic day for the Georgian people. 'The US, as before, would continue to assist Georgia in conducting democratic, political and economic reforms as well as forming a government and battling corruption,' he said. Powell added that Georgia would receive a total of USD 168 million in financial assistance from the US in 2004. He said that 'a meeting between Saakashvili and US President George Bush is scheduled to take place on February 25, and George Bush is really looking forward to it.'

Powell also said that he will meet with his Russian counterparts later today in Moscow to discuss democratic and economic reforms in Georgia. 'I shall remind them that Russia should fulfill the Istanbul Agreement and remove its military bases from Georgian territory,' he said. Powell added that the US would continue to cooperate with Georgia in the military sphere. 'But we don't want Georgia to have any problems with Russia regarding this question,' he said.

Saakashvili said that Georgia would never forget the help it is receiving from the US. He added that the help was necessary for Georgia to continue with its transition. Saakashvili also said that Georgia intends to strengthen its cooperation with the US in the area of security and war on terrorism as well as in the formation of constructive relations with Russia. 'We want to have good relations with Russia and all of our neighbors,' he said.

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