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Georgian Media Tycoon Returns to Presidential Race

Georgian media tycoon Badri Patarkatsishvili has reversed himself and says he will now run in Saturday's presidential elections.

Patarkatsishvili withdrew his candidacy last week. Thursday, he said he changed his mind after a telephone conversation with Georgia's Orthodox Patriarch Ilia II.

Patarkatsishvili quit after several Georgian television stations aired a videotape showing him offering $100 million to an Interior Ministry official in exchange for a ministry pledge not to use police force against opposition protesters.

He was a driving force behind mass opposition protests in November in the capital, Tbilisi. Those protests prompted President Mikhail Saakashvili to call the early elections. The president then resigned as required by law and registered as a candidate for reelection.

Separately Thursday, acting President Nino Burjanadze said her first priority is to ensure that no one destabilizes Saturday's vote.

She also voiced confidence in Georgian voters, saying they will correctly determine which candidate will fulfill campaign promises and best serve Georgia's interests.

Patarkatsishvili does not appear to have enough support to defeat former Mr. Saakashvili. But analysts say his candidacy could influence the outcome - either by siphoning enough votes from Mr. Saakashvili to force a second round of balloting, or by further splitting and weakening the opposition.

Patarkatsishvili, the co-owner of Georgia's main private television station, operates mainly from London. He has not been seen in Georgia since prosecutors said last month they wanted to question him about a suspected coup plot.

Meanwhile, one of Patarkatsishvili's top campaign officials has resigned in protest over his decision to remain in the race. Giorgi Zhvania says he quit as head of the candidate's campaign headquarters because Patarkasishvili does not have the unquestionable reputation one would expect of a country's president.