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Cheney Backs Membership In NATO for Georgia

Vice President Dick Cheney flew here on Thursday to deliver a forceful American pledge to rebuild Georgia and its economy, to preserve its sovereignty and its territory and to bring it into the NATO alliance in defiance of Russia.

Cheney spent only four and a half hours in Georgia, but the visit included a strong rebuke to Russia’s behavior and a highly symbolic visit to U.S. troops unloading humanitarian supplies at the airport here within sight of an airplane factory that Russian bombs had damaged.

He arrived a day after the United States pledged $1 billion to help Georgia recover from its defeat by Russia’s armed forces, which continue to control two breakaway regions, as well as buffer zones in Georgia.

Standing beside President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia, Cheney said that the United States had strongly supported Georgia since protests in 2003 ushered a democratic government to power and that it would continue to do so despite Russia’s proclamations that Saakashvili’s government was illegitimate.

“I assured the president as well of my country’s strong commitment to Georgia’s territorial integrity,” Cheney said after meeting with Saakashvili, without aides, for more than an hour, twice the scheduled time. “Georgia has that right, just as it has the right to build stronger ties to friends in Europe and across the Atlantic.”

As Oil Prices Fall, OPEC Faces a Balancing Act

The decline in oil prices has been a relief for consumers and a rare piece of positive news in a bleak economic landscape. But for oil producers that have grown accustomed to rising revenue, falling prices are turning into a cause for concern, if not quite panic.

Oil prices have dropped by a third in seven weeks and appear to be headed below the symbolic $100-a-barrel threshold for the first time since March. Though oil remains expensive by historical standards, the speed of the decline is prompting some soul-searching within the OPEC cartel.

Venezuela and Iran, the leading price hawks in the group, said they did not want oil to fall below $100, a price Iran’s oil minister recently said was a “minimum.” Both countries signaled that members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries needed to reduce output to bolster prices.

Other OPEC members, like Algeria and Kuwait, fear that high energy costs might jeopardize their exports as the global economy slows. Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, has not specified a price it considers fair, though King Abdullah has said that $100 was too high.