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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Georgia Calls for Investment in Pipeline

LONDON -- Georgia's economic growth reached 13 percent in the first quarter of 2007 after the economy grew by 9.4 percent last year, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said Wednesday.

Saakashvili said foreign direct investment would almost double to $2 billion dollars for 2007, up from $1.2 billion last year. He also called for investment in a pipeline that would bring Central Asian and Caspian natural gas to Europe through Georgia, alongside a new pipeline for crude oil.

Georgia experienced instability, ethnic conflict and economic collapse for much of the 1990s. But in the last few years, it has been rated a top reformer by the World Bank and its economy has taken off.

"We don't have the same level of natural resources as some of our neighbors but we have something they don't have -- an effective, transparent, non-corrupt environment," he said.

He said foreign investment in Georgia, which a few years ago focused mainly on the big oil pipeline project, was now diversifying into a range of small- and medium-size businesses, as well as road construction, airports, oil refineries.

"It is broad, diverse, and as such, more sustainable," he said at London's Royal United Services Institute.

Georgia achieved its economic growth despite a Russian ban on its agricultural products, including wine, which Saakashvili said wiped out 70 percent of its trade.

To Moscow's anger, Saakashvili has sought to integrate Georgia into both NATO and the European Union since taking power in the Rose Revolution of 2003, when protesters swept out veteran leader Eduard Shevardnadze after a rigged election.

Saakashvili acknowledged Georgia's path into the EU would be difficult, but said European leaders should show vision and recognize their interest in a country with access to energy-rich Central Asia.

"The pragmatic approach should not become a cynical approach. That is all we are asking," he said.

Saakashvili said it was important for Europe to diversify its natural gas imports, and a route through Georgia could play a big role.

"Central Asia has bigger export potential for natural gas than Russia. What does Europe do about it? Not enough," he said. "There is no reason why someone can build a pipeline in the Baltic and not in the Caspian."