Georgia to continue reforms to gain NATO membership

Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Noghaideli pledged to continue a series of reforms that will put his nation on the path to possible NATO membership.

"From our side, I would like to say the homework will be done," he told NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer at a news conference after talks with the NATO chief and alliance ambassadors.

De Hoop Scheffer called Georgia an "exporter of security," commending the country for sending peacekeeping troops to a number of countries as part of NATO missions there, and to Iraq, as part of the U.S.-led coalition.

Georgia, a former Soviet republic, still has work to do before it can gain entry into the 26-nation alliance, he said. "Progress has been made, but there are still a lot of things to do, of course, mainly and mostly in the sector of defense reform, where things should have an extra impetus," said de Hoop Scheffer.

He added that NATO has no timeline for Georgia's integration into the bloc, and that the process will move as quickly as Georgia can carry out the reforms.

In November 2004, Georgia became the first country to develop a two-year partnership with NATO that aims to strengthen its relationship with the alliance and allows NATO to give specific advice on reforms it should undertake in areas such as security and the military, public information, science and environment, and civil emergency planning.

While NATO does not have a direct role in resolving conflicts in Georgia's two separatist regions - Abkhazia and South Ossetia - Scheffer said the alliance will be watching progress there.

"The prime minister informed us and the (alliance) council extensively on the important contribution the Georgian government is making in trying to find a solution, and that's I think a positive sign indeed for stability in the region," he said.

Noghaideli will also hold talks with European Union officials during his Brussels visit, meeting European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso on Wednesday, the AP reports.


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