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Georgia Opposition Rallies in Tbilisi


Up to 10,000 opposition supporters are rallying in the Georgian capital Tbilisi Friday in the first major show of discontent since Georgia's defeat in a war with Russia in August.

Opposition parties are demanding early presidential and parliamentary elections.

They also seek release of political prisoners, media freedom, and the return of Imedi TV to the family of its former owner. Opposition activists say they will hold round-the-clock protests if authorities do not meet their demands by April 9th.

The opposition has been critical of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili's handling of the brief war with Russia over the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia.

Thousands of Russian troops poured into the country in August when Georgian troops tried to retake South Ossetia by force.

Under a European-brokered cease-fire, Russian forces later withdrew to positions inside South Ossetia and another separatist region, Abkhazia.

Russia has since formally recognized the independence of both Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Friday's opposition rally comes on the 1st anniversary of clashes in Tbilisi when police used water cannon, tear gas and rubber bullets to break up days of opposition protests.

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

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