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Bush Praises Peaceful Power Transfer in Georgia


President Bush has telephoned the interim president of Georgia to praise the peaceful transfer of power after protests that forced the resignation of President Eduard Shevardnadze.

President Bush phoned interim President Nino Burjanadze to commend her commitment to calling presidential elections in January in accordance with the Georgian constitution.

White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan says Mr. Bush noted that the transfer of authority in Georgia was accomplished without violence as President Shevardnadze stepped down Sunday amid massive demonstrations to protest alleged fraud in November parliamentary elections.

"The president reiterated the United States' support for Georgia's sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity as well as for Georgia's program of democratic and free-market reforms," she said.

She says Mr. Bush told the interim leader that the State Department will send an assessment team to Georgia to see how the international community can help support those reforms.

He made no initial promise of financial assistance, but Ms. Buchan says the president's sending that assessment team shows that the United States stands ready to help the Georgian people.

Mr. Bush made the 10 minute phone call from his Texas ranch where he is spending the Thanksgiving weekend with his parents, the former president Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush.

Interim President Burjanadze has told parliament the country is on the brink of economic collapse. She announced that opposition leader Mikhail Saakashvili will be the opposition coalition's only presidential candidate in January's special election.

She promised that vote will be held in an atmosphere of peace and calm and expressed confidence the ballot will bring victory for the opposition.