Bush Sends Rice on Georgia Trip

WASHINGTON -- U.S. President George W. Bush said Wednesday that he was skeptical that Moscow was honoring a cease-fire in Georgia.

He demanded that Russia end all military activities and withdraw all its forces.

"The United States stands with the democratically elected government of Georgia and insists that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia be respected," Bush said sternly, during brief remarks in the White House Rose Garden.

"To demonstrate our solidarity with the Georgian people," the president announced that he was sending Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Paris to help the West's diplomatic efforts in the crisis, and then to Tbilisi. Rice was leaving Washington on Wednesday evening.

Later, presidential spokeswoman Dana Perino said Bush was delaying the start of his vacation by "a day or two" to monitor developments. He had been scheduled to leave Thursday for a two-week stay at his Texas ranch.

Bush also announced that a massive U.S. humanitarian effort already was in progress and would involve U.S. aircraft as well as naval forces. A U.S. C-17 military cargo plane, loaded with supplies, landed in Georgia on Wednesday, and Bush said that Russia must ensure that "all lines of communication and transport, including seaports, roads and airports," remain open to let deliveries and civilians through.

Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman said a second supply-laden C-17 was planned Thursday, and an assessment team was to arrive soon in Georgia to determine other needs. The Pentagon also is preparing to send the hospital ship, the USNS Comfort, if needed, although it would take weeks to get to the region.

The administration also will review what military help is needed for Georgia's now-shattered armed forces, Whitman said.

"To begin to repair the damage to its relations with the United States, Europe and other nations, and to begin restoring its place in the world, Russia must keep its word and act to end this crisis," Bush said.

The president spoke amid a fast-moving chain of events as Rice canceled a planned news conference and the White House scrubbed its regular morning briefing for reporters. Despite extensive intelligence resources and deep ties to the Georgian military that U.S. soldiers have trained, the Bush administration has struggled to determine whether Russia is pushing deeper into Georgia and threatening Tbilisi.

Neither the president nor his Cabinet has answered questions on the record about the 6-day-old crisis except for remarks that Bush made in a television interview on the sidelines of the Olympic Games in Beijing.

Bush spent the morning meeting with his national security team in the White House Situation Room, the nerve center for monitoring international developments. He talked by telephone with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who traveled to both Tbilisi and Moscow and is leading a European Union initiative to bring about peace there.