"I hope that over the next few days we will work hard together to show that Georgia is firmly on track and to accelerate my country's integration into the Euro-Atlantic family, our proper and rightful home," he said.

Al Jazeera's Jonah Hull, reporting from Tbilisi, said Nato was divided on keeping its promise to Georgia on its future membership because some members were concerned about Moscow's reaction given that Europe mostly relies on energy supplies from Russia.

During the visit, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, the Nato secretary-general, urged Georgia to move forward with democratic reforms despite the difficulties caused by the conflict.

He said the visit by representatives of all Nato nations would help "assess how to further enhance the Nato-Georgia partnership", adding that Nato's stand remained the same – not to offer Georgia the first step towards membership except to assure it of an eventual entry.

"I certainly hope ... given the very serious situation existing as it is, that there will be progress there," he said of Georgia's aspirations.

The Nato chief and Lado Gurgenidze, the Georgian prime minister, signed an agreement establishing a new Nato-Georgia commission that will oversee future relations.

IMF loan

Russia plans to keep about 8,000 troops in the two breakaway regions [Reuters]
The Nato visit came as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved a $750m loan programme to boost Georgia's economy and restore investor confidence.

David Owen, a senior IMF adviser, said $250m would be immediately disbursed with the rest issued in six instalments over the next 18 months.

Nato's reservation in admitting Georgia has mainly stemmed from the unresolved status of the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, where Russia's grip poses a diplomatic minefield.

Moscow has said it will maintain nearly 8,000 troops in South Ossetia and Abkhazia for the foreseeable future.

Russian reaction

As Nato diplomats arrived in Tbilisi, Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president, warned the West that it would be "senseless" to consider sanctions as a weapon, which he said "will backfire".

Russia's foreign minister also toured the South Ossetian capital Tskhinvali.

Al Jazeera's correspondent said with the deployment of 200 European Union monitors in security zones around the two separatists regions, Russia was unlikely to change its position that South Ossetia would never be part of Georgia again.

He said the territorial dispute also presented a stumbling block to Georgia's entry into the alliance and what happened in the coming days and months would test the credibility of both Nato and the Georgian president amid growing discontent among thousands of displaced citizens.