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The News in Brief

Monday, February 11

Mikheil Saakashvili schedules official visit to the US

Washington has invited President Mikheil Saakashvili for an official visit on March 19.

The two sides are to discuss a broad range of topics, including the two states’ relations and democratic reforms within Georgia. (Prime News)

US Senator reiterates support for Georgian membership in NATO

Time to coincide with a security conference in Munich, John McCain, a US senator and the probable Republican nominee for president, released a statement voicing support for Georgia’s NATO membership bid as part of a “new global order of peace.”

“Georgia and Ukraine have expressed their desire for a NATO Membership Action Plan. We should offer it to them at the [Bucharest] summit,” the statement reads.

“These two nations have every right to aspire to democracy and security as other states closer to the heart of Europe. Ukraine and Georgia have difficult neighbors and domestic challenges; they are young democracies and their road ahead will be difficult. But they should know that we will support them every step of the way, and we can show them this by supporting their aspirations at Bucharest.” (Prime News)

Saakashvili to meet NATO secretary general

President Mikheil Saakashvili was to meet with NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and US Assistant Secretary Daniel Fried over the weekend at a Munich security conference.

The Georgian delegation to the annual security conference included the country’s top ranking foreign relations officials.

The conference, which closed on February 10, focused on questions of NATO, arms control, Afghanistan and global security policy.

Saakashvili, together with Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin, delivered a speech entitled, “Challenges of European Stability.” (Prime News)

Gabashvili denies Russian suggestions of Chechen fighters in Georgia

Konstantin Gabashvili, chair of the parliamentary committee on foreign relations, rebuffed Russian suggestions that Chechen guerillas are still sheltering in Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge.

Gabashvili said the Russian statement was made to justify the reinforcement of Russia’s military forces in the North Caucasus.

Lt. Gen. Anatoly Zabrodin, first deputy head of the Russian Border Service, said on February 7 that Chechen guerillas may be plotting attacks on Russian forces from Pankisi.

Georgian official labeled Zabrodin’s statement a “provocation.” (Prime News)

Refugees in Varketili district demonstrate

IDPs living in Tbilisi’s Varketili district demonstrated against the government for allegedly trying to evict them from their housing.

Representatives of the oppositional Kartuli Dasi movement said that refugees rallied on February 9 to protest the planned privatization of the buildings housing the IDPs.

Government representatives say there are no plans to expel the refugees, and that the issue would be settled this week. (Prime News)

Davit Kobakhidze, shipwreck victim, on his way back to Georgia

Davit Kobakhidze, 41, a representative of the Georgian company Basko, will return to Georgia after being rescued from the shipwreck of a Turkish vessel in the Adriatic Sea.

Kobakhidze was reportedly burned on the hands in the wreck, but is otherwise in good health.

According to officials, the 633-foot-long Und Adriyatik was sailing from Istanbul to Trieste carrying “200 trucks and nine tons of dangerous material.”

Kobakhidze was accompanying Basko’s cargo. (Prime News)