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US Diplomat Says Georgia to Lift Emergency Rule

U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Bryza says Georgian authorities will lift their country's state of emergency within three days. VOA Correspondent Peter Fedynsky has details from Tbilisi.

Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Matthew Bryza says Georgia will lift its state of emergency by November 16. Bryza told reporters in Tbilisi that the speaker of the Georgian Parliament, Nino Burdzanadze, informed him about the plan. The emergency rule bans all independent news broadcasts and public meetings.

The American diplomat is on a special mission to Georgia that includes meetings with President Mikhail Saakashvili and other top government and opposition officials.

Bryza called on both sides to avoid name calling and to act responsibly.

"There's responsibility on the part of the government to engage with the opposition and to think through what the various steps are that are needed to move the country ahead," Bryza said. "There's responsibility as well on the part of the opposition to make sure that if the government side is acceding to some of the demands, that there are not a current series of escalatory demands put on the table."

In a televised meeting with Georgian teachers Monday evening, President Saakashvili justified the state of emergency by saying Russian President Vladimir Putin told him at a summit last year that Russia would partition Georgia and turn it into a new Cyprus.

The Mediterranean island of Cyprus has been divided between Greek and Turkish Cypriots since 1974. Russia backs separatist rebels in Abkhazia, a region of Georgia that borders Russia.

Bryza says he would be shocked, based on recent U.S. conversations with Moscow, if Russia was planning to destabilize Georgia. Nonetheless, he said the U.S. immediately responded to unconfirmed reports of Russian troop movements in Abkhazia.

"I would just like to say we immediately raised these reports with the Russian government to make clear that we're watching, and to make clear we expect our Russian colleagues to abide by their commitment to Georgia's territorial integrity," Bryza said.

Bryza says democracy is the cornerstone of the U.S. security interest in Georgia. He said Georgia has made strong progress on democratic reforms in recent years, although he recognized that for a couple of days last week people questioned the strength of the country's beacon of democracy.