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Bush Urges Russia To Withdraw Bases From Georgia

Washington, 25 February 2004 (RFE/RL) -- With visiting Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili at his side, U.S. President George W. Bush today urged Russia to keep its promise to withdraw its forces from Georgia.

Speaking with reporters after his meeting with Saakashvili at the White House, Bush said the United States will continue to work with Russia President Vladimir Putin to encourage him to honor the Istanbul commitment of 1999, in which Moscow agreed to the troop pull-out.

"We expect the Russian government to honor the Istanbul commitment. The Istanbul commitment made it very clear that Russia would leave those bases. We will continue to work with the [Georgian] president and President Putin on that commitment," Bush said.

Bush also said it was smart of Saakashvili to make sure that his first foreign trip as president was to Russia to ensure continued good relations.

For his part, Saakashvili said Georgia is proud to be not only a friend of the United States, but also an ally. He said U.S.-Georgia relations are based on more than security and economics, but on the two nations' shared values of democracy and liberty.