Merkel Wants Neighborhood Meeting

BERLIN German Chancellor Angela Merkel has proposed that the European Union stage a "neighborhood conference" for Georgia that will include bordering states, a government spokesman said Saturday.

"This is solely a conference aimed at supporting and strengthening Georgia in economic terms," government spokesman Thomas Steg said. "It's not a conference aimed at finding a political solution to the conflict."

The German weekly magazine Der Spiegel said Merkel's vision envisions the participation of neighboring countries like Armenia and Azerbaijan in the conference, but that the group would not include Russia.

"A decision about the whether, when and who is entirely the responsibility of the EU presidency," another spokesman said.

Merkel's proposal had been forwarded to France, which currently holds the six-month rotating presidency of the EU.