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Riot Police Disperse Georgian Protesters


Riot police in Tbilisi have used tear gas and water cannon to disperse demonstrators protesting for the sixth day against Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili. VOA's Peter Fedynsky reports from Moscow.

Riot police used water cannon, tear gas and batons to disperse demonstrators from the area around the parliament building in Tbilisi, the scene of six days of mass protests against Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili. People fled the area with not only inflamed eyes, but inflamed passions, denouncing the Georgian leader as a dictator.

Opposition activist Ivlian Khaindrava compared him to Bolsheviks, who seized power in Russia exactly 90 years ago.

"This action of the government will cause the new wave of the mass protest in this country, which may lead to the end of this government which probably today celebrates the 90th anniversary of Great October Socialistic Revolution, being real neo-Bolsheviks," he said.

Interior Minister Spokesman Shota Utiashvili told VOA that force was needed, because the crowd was getting out of control.

Utiashvili says a group of demonstrators attacked the police and broke through the police cordon. So we had to call in Special Forces, who used tear gas and dispersed the demonstration.

Protests against Mr. Saakashvili began on Friday, with at least 50,000 people demanding electoral reforms and early parliamentary elections. Since then, crowds have been smaller, but opposition demands have escalated to include the president's resignation.

The Georgian leader has refused the demands, saying parliamentary and presidential elections will be held as scheduled at the end of 2008. Mr. Shaakashvili blames what he calls dark forces manipulated by Russia of being behind the demonstrations. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has rejected the accusation as a farce.

The Georgian demonstrations broke out following accusations against President Saakashvili by his former ally and defense minister, Irakli Okruashvili. He accused the president of corruption and involvement in a murder plot against a prominent businessman. He then retracted the charge, but reinstated it Tuesday in Germany, saying he had been under duress.

Prosecutors say they will revoke Okruashvili's $6 million bail if he does not respond to a summons. Georgian officials earlier said Okruashvili left Georgia for unspecified medical treatment abroad. Opposition members say he was forced to leave.

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