WATCH­ING GE­OR­GIA

The Washington Times Daily - - World -

The United States is closely mon­i­tor­ing demo­cratic progress in Ge­or­gia and plans to pro­mote its bid for NATO mem­ber­ship at the next al­liance sum­mit, the diplo­mat picked to serve as am­bas­sador to the for­mer Soviet repub­lic told the Se­nate this week.

Richard Nor­land, a ca­reer diplo­mat, also re­it­er­ated U.S. sup­port for Ge­or­gia’s boundaries and crit­i­cized Rus­sia for aid­ing sep­a­ratist move­ments.

Ge­or­gia and Rus­sia fought a brief con­flict in 2008 over Moscow’s sup­port for the break­away prov­inces of South Os­se­tia and Abk­hazia.

Mr. Nor­land told the Se­nate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee on Wed­nes­day that Ge­or­gia has a chance to prove its com­mit­ment to democ­racy in par­lia­men­tary elec­tions in Oc­to­ber and in a pres­i­den­tial elec­tion next year.

He agreed with Sen. Ben­jamin L. Cardin, Mary­land Demo­crat, who noted that the po­lit­i­cal op­po­si­tion com­plains that the gov­ern­ment throws up elec­toral hur­dles to en­sure its power.

“Ge­or­gia has made progress to­ward be­com­ing a full demo­cratic state,” Mr. Nor­land said. “But as you in­di­cated, there are very real con­cerns about . . . the level play­ing field.”

He added that the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion sup­ports Ge­or­gia’s de­sire to join NATO and will dis­cuss the is­sue at the May 20-21 al­liance sum­mit in Chicago.

Mr. Nor­land served most re­cently as am­bas­sador to Uzbek­istan and spent two years as deputy chief of mis­sion in Afghanistan from 2005 to 2007.

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