Addressing an international forum on Eastern Europe in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, Fried said Washington backed Georgia's ambition to join the Western security alliance. The ex-Soviet state has been looking to integrate into Europe and NATO since its pro-Western leadership came to power on the back of the bloodless "rose revolution" in 2003.
Fried said Georgia needed to improve its democratic credentials before it could join NATO, and praised the progress that the South Caucasus nation, home to 5 million, had already made.
He said much would depend on Georgia's future leadership and on the people, and stressed that a functioning opposition is a key sign of a healthy democracy.
A Georgian opposition leader, former defense minister Irakly Okruashvili, was arrested in late September after accusing President Mikheil Saakashvili of corruption and plotting the murder of a political opponent, an allegation denied by the president. Okruashvili was released on bail and flown to Europe earlier Thursday, one day ahead of an opposition rally set for Friday.
The Georgian opposition plans to campaign for parliamentary elections to be held in spring 2008. President Saakashvili, however, has proposed extending lawmakers' term from four to five years, which would allow parliamentary and presidential elections to be held simultaneously.
Under the current constitution, parliamentary polls are held every four years, and presidential elections every five years.
Add to blog
You may place this material on your blog by copying the link.
Image Galleries: Removing Protesters’ Barricades in Kiev
Infographics: First Russian Smartphone
Some people are trying to make the reality in Russia at least a bit more humane. The amnesty should apply not only to persons involved in high-profile cases, but also to individuals who are not as well-known. It is better to set free at least some of the individuals who deserve to be released than no one at all.