|Georgian President Mikhael Saakashvili, waving, and George Bush with Georgian dance troupe |
President Bush is in the former Soviet republic of Georgia on the final leg of a five-day, four-nation trip to Europe to mark the anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Europe.
President Bush is the first American head of state to visit this former Soviet republic, which gained its independence in 1991. Twelve years later, President Edward Shevardnadze was forced from power in the so-called Rose Revolution sparked by fraudulent elections.
Last year, Mikheil Saakashvili won a five-year term as Georgia's new president, beginning an ambitious reform program aimed at routing-out corruption and restoring the breakaway provinces of Abkhazia and South Osetia.
President Bush begins his day here with a wreath-laying at a monument to protesters killed by Soviet troops in 1989. After a private meeting with President Saakashvili, the two leaders will hold a joint news conference.
President Bush then meets with civil society leaders and the speaker of parliament ahead of a speech in Tbilisi's Freedom Square, which is expected to draw more than 100,000 people.
The president will praise the country's non-violent revolution and its ongoing reform efforts, holding-up the former Soviet republic as a model for other nations in the region moving toward greater democracy.
It is a message the president began with in the first country he visited, Latvia, which gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. He has also visited a cemetery in the Netherlands for Americans killed during World War II and attended celebrations in Moscow marking the 60th anniversary of the end of that war in Europe.