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Biden Arrives in Georgia with Message of Support

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden has pledged firm support for Georgia, saying that America stands with the former Soviet republic and will continue to do so.

Biden spoke in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, hours after arriving from Ukraine on a mission to assure both countries that the United States will not abandon them as Washington seeks a thaw in relations with Russia.

Biden spoke late Wednesday at a banquet hosted by President Mikheil Saakashvili. He described U.S. support as "an unequivocal, clear message to all who will listen and some who do not want to" -- an apparent reference to Russia.

The vice president will hold two days of talks with Mr. Saakashvili, and will meet with opposition leaders who have held more than three months of near-daily anti-Saakashvili protests in the capital.

Biden is the first senior U.S. official to visit Georgia since Russian troops swept into the country last year.

Russia says the operation was a response to a Georgian military push to regain control of the breakaway territory of South Ossetia. Georgia says it was reacting to a Russian invasion.

Russia has since recognized South Ossetia and a second breakaway region, Abkhazia, as independent countries, despite strong protests from Western governments.

Earlier in Ukraine, Biden told a gathering of business people, politicians and students that the United States will stand by the country as it continues on what he called "a path to freedom and prosperity."

He also reaffirmed U.S. support for Ukrainian efforts to gain NATO entry, and he urged Ukrainian leaders to seek compromise on issues that have split the country's government. Biden also urged his audience to work toward becoming more energy efficient.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.