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U.S. Lawmakers Say Next Georgian Elections 'Critical'

U.S. Congressman Howard Berman
WASHINGTON -- Lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives have described parliamentary elections in October and the 2013 presidential election in Georgia as "critical" for the country's democratic development.

Representative Howard Berman (California), the House Foreign Affairs Committee's top Democrat, said he was "concerned by efforts to prevent a prominent political opponent from running in the parliamentary election" -- a reference to billionaire opposition leader Bidzina Ivanishvili.

Berman also decried "reported attempts to intimidate local opposition leaders, including denying them access to media."

The comments come after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on a June 5 visit to Georgia urged President Mikheil Saakashvili to ensure a "democratic transfer of power."

House lawmakers also approved a resolution reaffirming support for Georgia's territorial integrity, NATO aspirations, and democratic reforms made to date.

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