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Saakashvili pays US firms to lobby for him in Washington

Russia Today
Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Tbilisi has signed a contract with an influential US lobbying firm, the Podesta Group. Thanks to its efforts, President Saakashvili will reportedly pay his first visit to the US since Barack Obama’s election.

“Georgia online” reported Wednesday referring to US sources that in April Mikhail Saakashvili will meet with American President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other officials. However, the Georgian president administration confirmed the information about the trip but said it is not known yet whether the two presidents will meet, Internfax agency reports.

On Tuesday, Georgian news website Civil.ge reported that the six-month contract worth US$300,000 between Georgia and the lobbying company was signed in January. According to the documents submitted by the company to the US Justice Department, the Podesta Group (PG) will “provide lobbying, government relations, public relations and media management services to Georgia and will also arrange for its client meetings with members of Congress and their staff, as well as with executive branch officials.”

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The deal appears to have yielded initially positive results for Tbilisi. Russian daily Kommerstant writes that it is thanks to the PG efforts that an agreement over Saakashvili’s visit to Washington has been reached.

Once a favorite of the US administration, a frequent guest on Western TV channels, the Western-educated and English-speaking Saakashvili was seen as a face of democracy on the post-Soviet space. However, he has lost points following the EU report on the conflict in the Caucasus in August 2008, which stated that Georgia started the war in South Ossetia.

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