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Georgian President Decorates U.S. Senator McCain


President Mikheil Saakashvili (left) greets Senator McCain in Batumi
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has decorated visiting U.S. Senator and former presidential candidate John McCain with the Order of the National Hero of Georgia.

At a ceremony in Georgia's Black Sea city of Batumi, Saakashvili praised McCain for his strong support of Georgia during the August 2008 Russian-Georgian war.

McCain, who at the time was the Republican candidate for the U.S. presidency, repeatedly backed Georgia in the conflict.

He told journalists in Batumi today that Russia should pull out of the Georgian territory it currently occupies, RFE/RL's Georgian Service reports.

McCain and two other Republican senators arrived on January 10 in Batumi, where they met separately with Saakashvili and with several Georgian opposition party leaders.

From Batumi, McCain travelled to Zugdidi, where he met today with Hans-Joerg Haber, the head of the European Union Monitoring Mission, and with Georgian refugees from the breakaway region of Abkhazia.

Large numbers of Russian forces have moved into Abkhazia and Georgia's other breakaway region of South Ossetia since a five-day conflict with Georgian forces in August 2008, after which the regions declared their independence.

Moscow recognized them as independent states and has set up military bases in the regions, where it also patrols their adminstrative boundaries with Georgia proper.