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Powell Calls on International Community to Support Georgia's Territorial Integrity - 2003-12-02

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has pledged to support the new government of the former Soviet republic of Georgia and said no help should be given to separatists in that country. He was speaking at a ministerial meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe being held in the Dutch city of Maastricht.

Colin Powell's message to some 40 foreign ministers was clear.

"The international community should do everything possible to support Georgia's territorial integrity throughout and beyond the election process," emphasized Mr. Powell. "No support should be given to breakaway elements seeking to weaken Georgia's territorial integrity."

Secretary Powell's words come the day after Georgia's new acting president accused Russia of undermining her nation's sovereignty by meeting with separatist leaders from the country's provinces.

President Nino Burjanadze said her country wanted to repair relations with Russia but claimed that Russia was more interested in having Georgia as a dependent partner than as a friend.

She also said the United States could help her country with many of its problems. Secretary Powell, in turn, called on Ms. Burjanadze to fight corruption and to keep Georgia's upcoming elections free and fair. Georgia's new elections are scheduled for early January.

Ms. Burjanadze took office recently following the resignation of president Eduard Shevardnadze, who stepped down in the face of massive demonstrations. The political turbulence in that country has been high on the agenda of the two-day OSCE meeting in Maastricht.

Mr. Powell met the Georgian leader on the sidelines of the OSCE conference before heading off for northern Africa himself as part of a three-day trip that will take him to Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco before ending in Brussels on Thursday.

For its part, the United States sees Georgia as an important alternative source of oil, with a planned pipeline running though that country expected to bring Caspian Sea oil to the Mediterranean.