Cindy McCain to Meet With Saakashvili on Georgia Trip

Cindy McCain will visit wounded Georgian troops.
Cindy McCain will visit wounded Georgian troops. (Mary Altaffer - AP)
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By Michael D. Shear and Karen DeYoung
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, August 26, 2008

SACRAMENTO, Aug. 25 -- Cindy McCain, the wife of Sen. John McCain, flew Monday evening to the Republic of Georgia, where a military confrontation with Russia over disputed territory has become an issue on the presidential campaign trail.

John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, announced the visit to a group of fundraisers in Sacramento. McCain spokeswoman Jill Hazelbaker confirmed that his wife was en route to Georgia and said she is visiting as part of the U.N. World Food Program. Hazelbaker said she will meet with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and visit with wounded Georgian soldiers.

John McCain has repeatedly condemned Russia's military incursion into Georgian territory, and his campaign has been critical of Sen. Barack Obama's more measured response when Russian tanks invaded.

Since the outbreak of violence, several people seen as emissaries from the two campaigns have visited. McCain sent Sens. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.); Obama signed off on a trip by his new running mate, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.).

In an interview with Time magazine published on its Web site moments after her husband broke the news to donors, Cindy McCain said that she has wanted to visit Georgia for "some time," and that such trips are "an important part of what I'm about, what makes me tick."

McCain aides denied that the trip was scheduled to occur during the Democratic National Convention, and specifically on the day that Cindy McCain's counterpart, Michelle Obama, is to speak.

"She's on the phone with the World Food Program, he's on the phone with Saakashvili," McCain adviser Nicolle Wallace told Time. "It's like this great picture of what they'll be like in the White House."

Cindy McCain told Time she is concerned about the proliferation of land mines in Georgia and the danger to returning refugees.

"There's a whole bunch of things going on right now, and as we begin to move refugees from point A to point B or try to feed refugees who are stuck in pockets around the country, we're running into the issue of the blowing up of humanitarian vehicles that are trying to get to the refugees. So it's a whole morass of problems now," she said.

Russian forces began to pull back Friday from parts of Georgia, but U.S. and European officials said Monday that Moscow continues to violate the terms of a peace deal negotiated by French President Nicolas Sarkozy. It called for the return of both sides to positions they held before the war.

DeYoung reported from Washington.

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