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Page last updated at 18:48 GMT, Wednesday, 22 July 2009 19:48 UK

Biden pledges support for Georgia

Joe Biden arrives in Georgia, 22 July, 2009
Joe Biden is offering support for Georgia's territorial integrity

The US will support Georgia as the former Soviet republic seeks to broaden its democratic credentials, US Vice-President Joe Biden has said.

He told the BBC the US backed the territorial integrity of Georgia, following its 2008 war with Russia.

But that did not mean the US offered a physical security guarantee, he said.

Georgia says it plans to ask Mr Biden for US help to improve patrols on the borders of its two disputed regions, South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Speaking to the BBC's Washington correspondent Jonathan Beale, Mr Biden said the US could consider sending US monitors to the region if Georgia made a request.

It is understandable that the Russians worry at a gut level about the expansion of Nato, but nobody can dictate an outcome for another country
US Vice-President Joe Biden

"If and when asked, we will make that decision then," the vice-president said.

"We are with you - period - on the notion that your territorial integrity is recognised," he said to Georgians.

"We refuse to recognise that Abkhazia and South Ossetia are not part of Georgia."

Thousands of Russian troops are currently based in the disputed territories.

'Spheres of influence'

The BBC's Tom Esslemont, in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, says Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili is keen to capitalise on every bit of American support he can get, a year after Russia and Georgia went to war.

Mr Biden, who arrived in Georgia after visiting Ukraine, said that while the US was keen to maintain good relations with Russia, certain issues were not up for discussion.

One of these, he said, was "the 19th Century notion of the sphere of influence".

He described closer ties between Nato and countries in the former Soviet bloc as "a reality" that Russia would simply have to accept.

"Ukraine has not made up its mind whether it even wants to belong to Nato. The only point my trip is meant to make is that no-one else has the right to foreclose that decision."

He said: "It is understandable that the Russians worry at a gut level about the expansion of Nato, but nobody can dictate an outcome for another country."

Mr Biden said he believed that the "ultimate determination of Russian democracy" would, in part, be judged by how the democratic countries around Russia developed.

Nato has promised eventual membership to Ukraine and Georgia, but has not given either a potential entry date.

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