US sends envoy to protest Georgia emergency rule

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WASHINGTON, Nov 9 (Reuters) The United States will send an envoy to Georgia this weekend to emphasise Washington's opposition to the declaration of a state of emergency, said the State Department today.

Matt Bryza, an assistant secretary of state for European affairs, will meet President Mikhail Saakashvili and other Georgian officials in Tbilisi in the coming days.

''He will be in Georgia to provide our views and counsel,'' said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.

Earlier today, Georgia's parliament endorsed Saakashvili's state of emergency decree, which bans large meetings and severely restricts free media.

McCormack called the vote disappointing.

Saakashvili has said emergency rule was needed to counter the threat posed by Russian security services, which he said were stirring up civil disorder in Georgia.

''The imposition of the state of emergency or roll back, albeit temporarily, of those freedoms was not in Georgia's interests, not in the Georgian people's interests,'' McCormack said.

McCormack declined to say whether the state of emergency could set back Georgia's hopes for joining NATO.

''It is something that we are going to watch closely,'' he said.

McCormack said the United States, like other NATO members, would look at conditions in Georgia and see how those conditions matched up with requirements for NATO membership.

Reuters SBA VP0308

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