Brown pledges financial support for Georgia

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The Independent Online

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said today the Government was in "full support of the territorial integrity" of Georgia.

Speaking after talks with Georgian Prime Minister Vladimir Gurgenidze, the Premier pledged financial support to the country and said he would be urging other European allies to do so.

His meeting followed comments yesterday by Nato Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, who reaffirmed his support for Georgia to become a full member, despite Russian opposition.

And in a speech highly critical of Russia last night, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the West had to stand up to "bullying" by Moscow.

Standing alongside Mr Gurgenidze in Downing Street, Mr Brown said: "We are in full support of the territorial integrity of his country and we will be giving financial and economic support to Georgia and urging other countries to do so."

Mr Brown said Mr Gurgenidze would have meetings later with Foreign Secretary David Miliband and Chancellor Alistair Darling.

He added: "We will be working with our European partners to ensure that there is sufficient support for the reconstruction of Georgia."

The Georgian Prime Minister praised the leadership of Mr Brown, adding: "We deeply appreciate the efforts of the British Government."

In his speech yesterday to the Royal United Services Institute, Mr Scheffer said: "Why is it that we should be the ones who deny a nation who has these aspirations to help them come true?"

At a summit in the Romanian capital, Bucharest, in April, Nato leaders agreed that both Georgia and Ukraine would become alliance members at an unspecified date in the future.

Analysts believe Nato support for Georgia to become a member in the future may have contributed to Russia's invasion of its breakaway regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, last month.

Defence ministers from all 26 Nato states are meeting today at the request of Defence Secretary Des Browne for informal discussions on possible reforms.

Mr Scheffer said the meeting was pre-planned and was not taking place in response to the Russia-Georgia conflict.

Nato leaders will formally discuss the request of Kiev and Tbilisi for "membership action plans" in December. If approved, they could take 10 years to complete.

In an interview with Sky News to be broadcast today, Mr Brown said that if Georgia and Ukraine wanted to join Nato, "we should make it possible".

He said: "What we were asked to do at the Bucharest summit - and I supported this and Europe supported it - was that we, in principle, supported membership of Georgia and Ukraine. I think that's the right thing to do.

"If a sovereign country, free to make its own decisions, wishes to be part of a democratic group that has quite clear principles attached to its membership then we should be prepared to look at that."