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19 Mar, 2008 17:58

Bush dances Georgia towards NATO

U.S. President George W. Bush has assured his Georgian counterpart Mikhail Saakashvili that he will press to put the country on track towards NATO membership. But as the two presidents discussed mutual co-operation, as well as Georgian food and dancing, h

There was plenty to smile about for Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili after his meeting with President Bush in Washington.

With a crucial NATO conference in Bucharest just weeks away, Bush confirmed that America will push for Georgia to be granted a membership action plan for the alliance.

Bush has been a big fan of Georgia since he visited the country in 2005. At the meeting he reminisced about Georgian food and tried Georgian dancing.

Saakashvili thanked the American president for all the support he had shown Georgia.

But the warm welcome Saakashvili received in Washington did not go down so well back home. On Wednesday afternoon a few hundred opposition supporters gathered in front of the U.S. embassy. They were protesting at America’s support for Saakashvili, who they insist was not legitimately elected.

Though the banners they were waving may have been in broken English, their message was clear.

One of Georgia’s opposition leaders, Koba Davitashvili, outlined the grievance against Washington.

“The Georgian people didn't elect Mikhail Saakashvili as president and that's why he can't represent Georgia at the talks. We are calling on America to support democratic forces not tyranny in Georgia. We are ready and we want to be friends with America, but we don't want to be America's slaves,” Davitashvili said.

Opposition leaders insisted the protest was not anti-American, one even wore a NATO sweatshirt to show his pro-western credentials.

Although the protest failed to attract a big crowd, the noise it made was certainly heard in the halls of the American Embassy.

Protests in front of the American Embassy are almost unheard of in Georgia and only a few hundred people gathered there on Wednesday, but they were determined to get their message to Presidents Bush and Saakashvili in Washington.