NATO Secretary General to visit Georgia Oct. 3-4

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TBILISI, October 2 (RIA Novosti) - NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer will arrive Wednesday in Georgia for an official two-day visit, the Georgian foreign minister said Tuesday.

Since U.S.-educated President Mikheil Saakashvili came to power in the South Caucasus republic, it has been seeking to join NATO and the European Union and reduce its dependence on Russia, including in the energy sphere.

"This is a significant visit in the course of which the NATO secretary general will see the country and the results of efforts we are using to knock on NATO's door," said Gela Bezhuashvili, who is currently on an official visit to Greece.

Georgia expects integration with NATO to help it restore control over its two breakaway regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and to replace Russian peacekeepers in the area with an international contingent.

Saakashvili said he hopes his country will acquire candidate status for NATO membership before the end of 2008.

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