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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EU Backs Georgia After Crackdown

ReutersGeorgian presidential candidate Mikheil Saakashvili singing with children at a kindergarten Thursday in Mtskheta.
BRUSSELS -- The European Union gave Georgia's government a firm assurance of its support Thursday despite international dismay at its suppression of opposition protests last month.

EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner chided Tbilisi for a "somewhat overdone" reaction to the protests, which included the muzzling of an opposition television station, but welcomed subsequent steps to bolster democracy.

"We know Georgia is a young democracy," Ferrero-Waldner said at a news conference with Georgian Prime Minister Lado Gurgenidze.

Ferrero-Waldner stressed the need to restore media freedoms but hailed the decision to lift a state of emergency and Georgia's willingness to allow international observation of a presidential election on Jan. 5.

Gurgenidze also visited NATO on Wednesday to seek future support for his country's aspiration to join.

In Tbilisi, Deputy Defense Minister Batu Kutelia said Georgia had plugged into NATO's integrated air defense radar system so that the alliance could monitor what went on in the country's airspace. Georgia repeatedly has accused Russian war planes of infringing on its airspace, a charge Moscow denies.

Then-President Mikheil Saakashvili called a snap election after ordering riot police to force opposition protesters off the streets last month with tear gas and rubber bullets. Police also raided opposition television station Imedi, which Saakashvili accused of calling for a revolution. A Tbilisi court on Thursday lifted a ban on Imedi.