KUTAISI, Georgia (AP) — Georgia's parliament on Thursday approved a billionaire as the country's new prime minister and endorsed his government.
Bidzina Ivanishvili's coalition won the Oct. 1 parliamentary election. Lawmakers voted 88-54 to approve his Cabinet.
Ivanishvili and his political opponent, President Mikhail Saakashvili, will have to work together for the first year of the new government. When Saakashvili's second and final term ends in October 2013, a constitutional reform will transfer many of the president's powers to the prime minister.
Ivanishvili, who made his fortune in Russia, has stressed the need to restore relations with Moscow that have been severed since the two countries fought a brief war in August 2008.
He said after his approval Thursday that Georgia will rely on international assistance to try to start a dialogue with Russia "with a goal of developing a strategy for overcoming a crisis in bilateral ties."
At the same time he vowed to continue Saakashvili's course to integrate more closely with the West.
"Georgia will aspire to join the European Union, maintain its Euro-Atlantic orientation and integrate with NATO," he told reporters.
Ivanishvili emphasized that "the United States remains Georgia's main ally."