4 Sep 2008

US announces aid to rebuild Georgia

9:52 pm on 4 September 2008

The United States has announced $US1 billion of aid to Georgia for reconstruction, to help its strategic ally recover from its war with Russia.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the aid would be used to rebuild houses and infrastructure - but not for military purposes.

Georgia has requested $US2 billion in funding from the international community. On Wednesday, the International Monetary Fund also announced that Georgia was to receive a $US750 million loan.

The United States condemned Russia for sending troops and tanks last month to crush Georgia's bid to retake its separatist South Ossetia province. Russia says it was protecting civilians and will defend its vital national interests in the region.

The conflict ended with the ejection of Georgian troops from both South Ossetia and another breakaway region, Abkhazia.

Russia has since recognised the independence of both regions, though no other country has.

Cheney visit

On a visit to Azerbaijan, US Vice-President Dick Cheney said the United States must work with the oil-producing ex-Soviet republic to create additional energy export routes to Western markets.

He said the United States had a "deep and abiding interest" in its allies' security in the Caucasus

Azerbaijan and Georgia form an important link in the chain of a Western-backed energy corridor that bypasses Russia.

The West fears the route could be in jeopardy after the Kremlin sent its troops deep into Georgia, and Azerbaijan's state oil producer has already indicated it will switch some exports to Russian routes because of fears of instability in Georgia.

Russia rejects Western condemnation of its military intervention and its later recognition of the breakaway Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states.

It says Washington helped to spark the conflict by failing to rein in Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili.

"We need to wait until Mr Cheney is actually in Georgia to see how he assesses the situation," Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko told a news briefing.

"But all these calls on Tbilisi (by the United States) about the need to restore all of its destroyed military capability and so on do not in any way promote the stabilisation of the situation in the region," he said.