Georgia’s Ivanishvili to visit US first

Georgia’s Ivanishvili to visit US first

MOSCOW - Reuters
Georgia’s Ivanishvili to visit US first

Ivanishvili is ready to hold his first visit to Washington after election victory. EPA photo

Georgia’s richest man began talks on forming a government for the former Soviet republic yesterday and addressed fears over his links with Moscow by saying his first visit abroad would be to the United States.

Billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili urged President Mikheil Saakashvili, a staunch U.S. ally, to resign following Oct. 1’s parliamentary election, which the president conceded his party had lost to Ivanishvili’s coalition. He has acknowledged his six-party coalition is fragile and that he faces a difficult balancing act between the West and Moscow, which welcomed his election victory as a chance for better ties.
Ivanishvili said he wants to mend ties with Moscow and denies Saakashvili’s accusations he is a Russian stooge. “My first visit abroad will be to Washington and the United States is our main partner,” Ivanishvili told reporters yesterday.

Russia hopeful

His remarks came as Russia said it hoped the election victory in Georgia of Ivanishvili’s opposition coalition will help normalize relations between the two neighbors, which fought a brief war in 2008. Moscow and Tbilisi broke diplomatic ties after Georgian forces were routed in five days in August 2008 in a war that ended with Russia recognizing breakaway South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states. “It is obvious that Georgian society has voted for changes,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said. “Such development would be welcomed in Russia.