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Prime Minister Says Georgia in NATO by 2009

(Prague, Czech Republic--June 11, 2007) Prime Minister Zurab Noghaideli of Georgia said today that he expects his country to be a member of the NATO alliance in 2009.

Noghaideli made the statement at a press conference at the broadcasting headquarters of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Prague. He said Georgia will "in a very short period of time" implement new programs that will make it eligible to be invited to join the alliance at the next NATO summit. "In 2009, Georgia will be in NATO," Noghaideli said.

In wide-ranging remarks, Noghaideli also spoke about his country's success in combatting corruption and instituting economic reform that is boosting the economy into double-digit growth. Noghaideli said his government expects Georgia's economy this year to grow 12 percent compared to 2006. "We have overcome the Russian embargo that meant we lost 70 percent of our export market," he said, adding that a ban on selling Georgian wines in Russia, imposed in March 2006, is still in place.

Noghaideli dismissed questions drawing comparisons between Georgia's breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and Kosovo, an independence-seeking Serbian province populated mostly by ethnic Albanians. Asked about Russian president Vladimir Putin's objection to a U.S.-backed UN plan for Kosovo's independence from Serbia on the grounds that it would set a precedent for Abkhazian and South Ossetian independence from Georgia, Noghaideli emphasized, "The future of Abkhazia can only be decided by the whole prewar population of Abkhazia, not only by those who have managed to ethnically cleanse the region and are now claiming independence." Noghaideli said, "I strongly believe that there is no possibility, no way, to draw these parallels [between Kosovo and Georgia's Abkhazia and South Ossetia] and to repeat this precedent." He said he has no doubt "Abkhazia's and South Ossetia's conflicts are going to be resolved peacefully, in the framework of the territorial integrity of Georgia."

An article with more detail on Noghaideli's remarks can be accessed on the RFE/RL website.