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Georgian President Lays Out Goals In Annual Address

Mikheil Saakashvili (left) at NATO headquarters (file photo) (NATO) TBILISI, March 15, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- In his annual address to parliament, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili reiterated his determination to lead his country into European institutions, RFE/RL's Georgian Service reported.

Saakashvili said Europe was Georgia's "chief political sector" and that the country was united in its desire to join NATO and the European Union.

"Georgia is returning to its historical family," he told lawmakers. "We are not simply Europeans, but the most ancient Europeans. Europe is coming back to Georgia, and Georgia is returning into Europe's fold."

Saakashvili also said that despite a Russian trade embargo, Georgia's economy enjoyed "an impressive 10 percent growth rate" in 2006. He called last year "a turning point" economically and praised Georgians for "their strength and fighting spirit."

Saakashvili also said he hoped that the United States and Europe would play a more active role in settling conflicts in the separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

(with material from Interfax)

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