Obama Chats With Saakashvili

By Lee Speigel

Sep 3, 2008 6:09pm

DILLONVALE, Ohio — Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., spent some of his afternoon talking to Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, aides said today.

The Georgian ambassador to the U.S. called the Obama campaign over the weekend, letting them know that Saakashvili wanted to speak to the Democratic presidential nominee.

On his drive today from a town hall meeting in New Philadelphia, Ohio, to a family farm barbecue in Dillonvale, Ohio, Obama managed to call and reach Saakashvili in Georgia, despite the less-than-stellar cell reception in this part of East Ohio.

Mark Lippert, a foreign policy adviser to the senator, told ABC News that the two men discussed three items.

First, Saakashvili thanked Obama for mentioning Georgia in his Democratic nomination acceptance speech.

Obama, in criticizing President Bush’s foreign policy, said, "You can’t truly stand up for Georgia when you’ve strained our oldest alliances. If John McCain wants to follow George Bush with more tough talk and bad strategy, that is his choice, but that is not the change that America needs."

Second, Obama and Saakashvili discussed the $1 billion in aid the U.S. government today announced it is sending Georgia, "pursuant to the Biden-Obama billion dollars they proposed a couple weeks ago," Lippert said. "The administration signed onto that."

Third, Obama received a briefing on the current state of affairs in Georgia.

The whole conversation lasted somewhere between 10 and 15 minutes.

Lippert noted that, last Thursday, four members of a Georgian delegation to the U.S., here as part of the National Democracy Institute, met with Obama and, separately, Sen. Joe Biden. It was the only foreign policy meeting Obama participated in at the Democratic convention. Lippert and Mike McFaul, a Stanford University professor who advises Obama on Russian issues, participated in that meeting.

- jp

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