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Georgian Lawmakers Approve President's Emergency Measures


Georgian lawmakers have unanimously approved President Mikhail Saakashvili's decree instituting a state of emergency as authorities accused an opposition tycoon of plotting a coup.

Mr. Saakashvili declared the 15-day state of emergency Wednesday after six days of mass protests in Tbilisi by demonstrators who accused him of corruption and demanded his resignation.

The president's chief of staff, Yekaterina Sharashidze, later told reporters officials expect to lift the emergency much sooner than its November 22nd authorized deadline.

Meanwhile, Georgian prosecutors also announced plans to question businessman Badri Patarkatsishvili on suspicion of plotting to overthrow the government. The tycoon, who owns the country's leading television station, Imedi, has been financing the opposition.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack repeated U.S. calls to lift the state of emergency. He also announced that Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Bryza will travel to Tbilisi for talks on the situation.

The State Department also issued a warning to U.S. citizens traveling to or residing in Georgia to use caution, be aware of their surroundings at all times and avoid areas of demonstrations.

Earlier, Georgian opposition leaders announced plans to agree on a single candidate to challenge Mr. Saakashvili in the early presidential elections expected January 5.

Opposition leaders also insisted on the lifting of the state of emergency and news media restrictions before there can be any dialogue with the government. They spoke after meeting with the Patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church, Ilia II, who has offered to mediate in the crisis.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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