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Georgia's partner in democracy: US

Washington gave more than $1 billion over the past decade to build a multiparty system

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From Paris to Pakistan, Americans have grown used to television footage of American flags going up in flames or being trampled under foot by angry crowds.

But in Georgia, a handful of American flags have been held high among the sea of opposition banners that protesters used to usher in their revolution - waved in gratitude for Washington's role in facilitating democratic change here.

"We are so grateful to the US and European Union, our friends that have supported us," says Giorgi Baramidze, a chief strategist of interim President Nino Burjanadze. "We can now teach our children how to defend democracy, using Georgia's 'Rose Revolution' as the example."

Senior US officials pushed diplomatic buttons before and throughout the crisis - in concert with Russia and others - making clear to all sides the dangers of a forceful crackdown or street violence. But untidy as the opposition's seizure of power has been, analysts say that billions in Western aid - and steady prodemocracy brow-beating - proved a key to regime change, one achieved without a shot being fired.

"The US government has gone to great lengths to back a [democratic] process and institutions, and to be very careful - amid big pressure from both sides - not to back certain individuals," says Mark Mullen, head of the Georgia office of the National Democratic Institute (NDI), funded by the US government, which has engaged in democracy training here since the mid-1990s.

"In the end, this was done by Georgians - it was not done by Americans - and that is vital to everything," says Mr. Mullen, who has spent more than six years in Georgia. "We worked closely with all parties, and did enormous training with the president's party. But the reality is, most of them were not as enthusiastic."

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