New Georgian Prime Minister vows to fix ties with Russia

The billionaire political novice Bidzina Ivanishvili became Prime Minister yesterday, with a vow to pursue Nato and European Union membership while at the same time repairing frayed ties with Russia.

Mr Ivanishvili and his cabinet won approval from parliament, now dominated by his opposition Georgian Dream coalition after voters relegated President Mikheil Saakashvili's ruling party to the minority in an election on 1 October.

Before the 88-54 confirmation vote, Mr Ivanishvili assured the country he would not abandon Mr Saakashvili's drive to integrate with the West but would also try to rebuild relations with Russia four years after a brief war in 2008.

"Our team's priority is the aspiration to join the European Union, Euro-Atlantic orientation and integration into Nato," Mr Ivanishvili told MPs. "We will start a dialogue with Russia using international mechanisms that will help overcome the current crisis," said Mr Ivanishvili, 56.

Mr Saakashvili, the hero of the 2003 Rose Revolution that swept out Georgia's post-Soviet old guard, must step down next year, and reforms due to take effect after a presidential vote in 2013 will weaken the President.