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Bush Arrives in Georgia
/ 9 May.'05 / 19:35
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi

The U.S. President and Mrs. Bush greet
people upon landing at Tbilisi airport.
Click on image to view other photos
U.S. President George W. Bush arrived for an overnight visit to Georgia on Monday evening, the last stop in his European trip which also included Latvia, the Netherlands and Russia.

President Saakashvili and other officials welcomed Georgia’s highest profile guest in recent years at the Tbilisi airport.

From the airport, the U.S. President and Mrs. Bush headed directly to Old Tbilisi, where, along with the Georgian President, they plan to attend the performance of the Georgian national dance.

As a part of this official visit, the U.S. President will hold separate talks with President Mikheil Saakashvili and Parliamentary Chairperson Nino Burjanadze early on May 10. The U.S. President will also meet representatives of the Georgian civil society and ethnic minorities. This latter meeting will also be attended by the Georgian President. The two Presidents will also make a public speech on Freedom Square, where tens of thousands of Georgians are expected to gather.

The official schedule of the visit says nothing about a possible meeting between the U.S. President and Belarus opposition leader Anatoly Lebedko, who is also visiting Tbilisi. But Lebedko said in an in interview with the Georgian television stations on May 9 that he hopes this meeting will take place.

The Georgian authorities are proud of this visit by the U.S. President and are describing it as the recognition of Georgia as a leading democracy in the region.

Influential legal expert and civil society leader Davit Usupashvili, who is slated to become the leader of opposition Republic Party this summer, expressed hope on May 9 that U.S. President George W. Bush will also address the problems related with rule of law and democratic institutions during his visit.

“Along with his admiration towards the Georgian peoples' aspiration for freedom, I think he will also make some hints that there are still many problems in Georgia which need to be solved and I don’t mean only the problem of territorial integrity. The strengthening of democratic institutions is not less problematic here,” Davit Usupashvili said.

In his address to the Georgian citizens the U.S. President is also expected to speak about the unsolved conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia and call on Tbilisi to deal with these problems peacefully.

Georgian State Minister for Conflict Resolution Issues Goga Khaindrava confirmed on May 9 that Tbilisi offered that the secessionist leaders in Abkhazia and South Ossetia - Sergey Bagapsh and Eduard Kokoity respectively - travel to Tbilisi and meet with the visiting U.S. President. Both leaders rejected this proposal.

“Russia’s role in this [refusal by the secessionist leaders] was crucial… [a joint meeting with George W. Bush] was a really good idea, but it seems that [the secessionist leaders’] independence in respect of the decision-making process is very much restricted [by Moscow],” Goga Khaindrava said.

During talks with President Bush, the Georgian side is expected to push the issue of Russia’s role in Georgia’s unsolved conflicts, as well as the withdrawal of Russian military from Georgia.

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