Georgia wants to access NATO as quickly as possible

Lawmakers said in a resolution that Georgia's push to join the alliance was based on the Georgian people's "determination to build a unified, democratic European state."

Georgia's President Mikhail Saakashvili has sought to integrate the Caucasus nation closer to the West and set the goal of securing an invitation to join NATO by 2008 - the policy that vexed Georgia's giant northern neighbor, Russia.

The Georgian parliament also called on lawmakers from NATO member states to help support Georgia's membership bid, saying that the failure to do so would encourage "forces interested in creating obstacles to peaceful and democratic development of Georgia",  an apparent hint at Russia, the AP reports.

Georgian officials accused the Kremlin of backing separatists in Georgia's breakaway provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia where Russian soldiers have been deployed as peacekeepers. Russia also has two military bases in Georgia which it has agreed to leave by the end of 2008 following bitter arguments.

Saakashvili blamed Russia for a halt in natural gas supplies that left Georgia freezing amid the winter, and the bilateral ties were further strained after Russia banned imports of Georgian wine and mineral water in recent weeks.

The largely agricultural Georgia relies heavily on wine and other exports to Russia. Georgian officials have denounced the ban as an attempt to keep Georgia under Moscow's thumb.

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