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Corker meets with Georgian leader, views damage inflicted by Russia

Hank Hayes • Sep 2, 2008 at 12:00 AM

Innocent Georgian civilians were targeted and harmed unnecessarily by Russia during the recent short war between the former Soviet bloc countries, Sen. Bob Corker said Tuesday.

The Tennessee Republican returned late Sunday from a weekend trip to the Republic of Georgia where he met with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and surveyed damage and humanitarian operations in the town of Gori.

Corker, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Georgia is seeking a $1 billion aid package from the United States to rebuild its infrastructure.

Russia, said Corker, bombed “multi-family locations” as well as farms throughout the country that is about the size of South Carolina.

“These were not military strategic hits,” Corker said during a conference call with reporters. “Bridges were taken out. Farms were burned, all in an effort to create economic chaos in the country and terror among the citizens. There are tens of thousands of people who have been displaced. ... Still more than 30 percent of the people live in poverty. ... The word ‘cluster bomb’ was used a great deal (by Georgian officials).”

Corker said he was told by Saakashvili that Russia is seeking “regime change” in Georgia because of its strong support for western nations.

Corker also observed there was a “muted response” from other European countries about the conflict because they depend upon Russia for oil and gas.

“This further highlights the need for our country to get serious about our own energy policies. ... Energy is going to be a part of world conflict in the future and we need to pay attention to that,” said Corker, who is backing bipartisan energy legislation in the Senate.

Corker said the United States needs to act quickly but noted the dollar amount being sought by Georgia is substantial.

“We need to look at what the appropriate number might be,” he said of the economic aid package.

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