Cheney to Visit Georgia, Azerbaijan

CRAWFORD, Texas (Reuters)–U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney will visit the South Caucasus early next month to meet with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and Azeri President Ilham Aliyev, the White House said on Monday.

Cheney’s trip comes at the request of President George W. Bush. The US vice president will also visit Ukraine and Italy during his trip, which will begin on Sept. 2, his office said in a statement.

"The president felt it was important to have the vice president consult with allies in the region on our common security interests," White House spokesman Tony Fratto said in Texas, where Bush was spending two weeks at his ranch.

Cheney is due to meet President Aliyev and Viktor Yushchenko, the president of Ukraine, who has pressed to join the NATO alliance quickly after the Russia-Georgia crisis that unnerved many former Soviet republics.

Russia and Georgia, which hosts two major energy pipelines, went to war after Tbilisi attacked the breakaway province of South Ossetia on Aug. 7-8, prompting Russia to send forces into the region to prevent what Moscow calls a genocide of the South Ossetians.

An administration official said the trip had been planned before the fighting broke out between Georgia and Russia but "obviously it has taken on greater importance since recent events."

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