Bush Calls Saakashvili the Victor

ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE -- U.S. President George W. Bush has congratulated Georgian leader Mikheil Saakashvili for winning a presidential election that the opposition has said was rigged.

Saakashvili, a U.S. ally, won the Jan. 5 election with more than half of the vote, according to official figures. Bush called Saakashvili on Monday while taking off from Dubai for Riyadh as he toured the Middle East, U.S. National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley said.

"The president, just as we took off, called President-elect Saakashvili of Georgia, congratulated him on his electoral victory," Hadley told reporters on the Air Force One presidential jet.

"Saakashvili was appreciative of the president's call. He indicated that he had reached out to the opposition and was going to try and build a consensus during his -- what will be, obviously, his last term as president," Hadley said.

When asked whether Bush raised any concerns about the way election was run and whether there was any question about how democratic it was, Hadley said: "The president didn't."

"There have been a number of groups that have opined on that subject, and it's pretty clear that he won more than 50 percent, and therefore, avoided a second round," he said. "What he heard, what I think was very encouraging, was Saakashvili's indication that he was going to reach out to the opposition and try and build a national consensus going forward in his rule."