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Pacific island offers to recognize ex-Georgian states for cash

RIA Novosti

13:20 14/12/2009 MOSCOW, December 14 (RIA Novosti) - Nauru, the world's smallest country, has offered to join Russia in recognizing two Georgia's two former republics as independent states if paid $50 million by Moscow, the Kommersant daily reported.

Russia's move to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia in 2008 has so far been replicated by only Nicaragua and Venezuela.

Kommersant said the South Pacific island state's top diplomat, Kieren Keke, made the proposal during his visit on Saturday to South Ossetia, a mountainous province between Russia and Georgia that was devastated by a Georgian attack in August last year.

The sum would be astronomical for the tiny Micronesian island, which is home to less than 12,000 people.

The paper said that Kieren Keke, who has the triple role of trade, finance and foreign minister, met in Tskhinvali with South Ossetian foreign minister Murat Jioyev and parliamentary speaker Stanislav Kochiyev.

Ahead of his visit, Keke stayed in Moscow, where he met with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on December 10.

The talks reportedly touched on the possibility of Russian aid to the island, which has had almost no economy since the decline of its previous sources of revenue - phosphate mining and tax-haven banking. Around 90% of the islanders are unemployed.

The paper quoted Keke as saying his country can only "help the young Caucasus republic to overcome its difficulties" by recognizing its independence.

"We will also ask our neighboring Pacific countries to help you in the same way," the minister said.

Kommersant said a Nauruan delegation is also planning to visit the Abkhaz capital, Sukhumi.

Nauru, an oval-shaped island surrounded by a coral reef, is the world's only country with no capital. It declared its independence in 1968 and became a member of the United Nations in 1999.

In mid-November, a Russian delegation took part in an international conference of donor countries in Nauru.

Kommersant said the cash demand is modest compared to the island state's previous efforts.

In July 2002 Beijing reportedly promised to give Nauru $130 million in aid, on the condition that it wouldn't recognize Taiwan as independent. However, in May 2005, Nauru reversed its position after Taiwan agreed to a similar bribe, causing relations with Beijing to be severed.

According to Kommersant, Russia was ready to provide up to $200 million to Ecuador if it agreed to recognize the republics, but the President Rafael Correa refused the deal during his visit to Russia in October.

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