U.S. Will Give $1Bln In Aid To Georgia

Washington on Wednesday was to announce an aid package of more than $1 billion to help Georgia rebuild after its war with Russia.

The aid package was to total $1.07 billion for reconstruction, with $570 million to be disbursed this year and $500 million subsequently, U.S. officials said. None of the money is expected to go for military aid, a highly sensitive issue to Moscow.

A significant proportion will be devoted to budget support as well as to rebuild housing, transportation and other infrastructure destroyed in the conflict, one source said.

The White House plans to approach the campaigns of Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama and Republican John McCain to seek their commitment to continue the assistance after President George W. Bush leaves office on Jan. 20, the officials said.

The amount of the aid package appeared to dovetail with a proposal by Joe Biden, the Democratic vice presidential nominee, who has called for Congress to approve $1 billion in aid to Georgia -- a proposal Obama has endorsed.

Also Wednesday, the International Monetary Fund agreed in principle to lend Georgia $750 million over 18 months to soften the economic impact of the war.

Georgia has requested $1 billion to $2 billion in international aid to repair and develop infrastructure.

Meanwhile, Russia on Wednesday suspended consular operations at its shuttered embassy in Tbilisi so that ordinary Georgians cannot visit relatives in Russia.

The suspension, which means no new applications for Russian entry visas will be accepted, aims to weaken Georgia's leadership by creating problems for its people. It came after Georgia severed diplomatic ties with Russia last week.

"A break-off of diplomatic ties is an action that has a price," Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko said Wednesday in Moscow, adding that the ministry is also considering other measures.

Without visas, Georgians cannot travel to Russia unless they have dual citizenship. Hundreds of thousands of ethnic Georgians live in Russia, some with Russian citizenship.

Russia closed its embassy in Tbilisi on Tuesday after receiving formal notice from Georgia that it was severing diplomatic ties, Consul Valery Vasilyev said. He said employees had taken down Russian flags and other symbols that adorned the building.

The Georgian Embassy in Moscow closed Wednesday, and all embassy officials will leave by the end of September, said its charge d'affaires, Givi Shugarov.

(AP, Reuters)