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Georgian Protesters Call for President Shevardnadze's Resignation - 2003-11-14

Georgian protesters have again taken to the streets in large numbers to call for President Eduard Shevardnadze's resignation, after parliamentary elections they said were flawed. President Shevardnadze says the protests risk becoming dangerous for Georgia, and he has appealed for calm

Tens of thousands of protesters marched toward President Shevardnadze's office in the capital, Tbilisi, after he failed to meet them on the steps of parliament Friday, where they demanded he resign.

Both the president and the opposition have said they are ready for dialogue, but other than one failed meeting last Sunday, they have yet to come together.

Friday's opposition rally aims to increase pressure on President Shevardnadze, who earlier appeared on national television to urge Georgians to avoid civil confrontation. He said the days of street unrest could prove dangerous for Georgia's stability, and he appealed for calm.

At the same time, Georgia's interior minister, Koba Narchemashvili, has warned the opposition that force will be used, if they try to break through police cordons around government buildings.

So far, the police have just looked on, as protesters chant for President Shevardnadze to go away, calling him a traitor.

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov met Friday in Moscow with the leader of Georgia's autonomous Adzhara region, Aslan Abashidze. Mr. Abashidze heads the Revival Union party, which currently is in second place behind Mr. Shevardnadze's "For a New Georgia" bloc, according to latest vote tallies.

Mr. Ivanov told Mr. Abashidze that Moscow did not want to interfere in Georgia's internal affairs. The Russian foreign minister said he still hopes the political forces in Georgia will find a political solution.

Mr. Ivanov says Moscow is ready to organize dialogue with what he called the Caucasian Four - Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia - if that would solve the stand-off.

Late Friday, President Shevardnadze informed Russian President Vladimir Putin about the crisis by phone. But the Kremlin released no further details.

The opposition began the protests alleging they were robbed of victory in the parliamentary election. The protest has since then turned into a massive demonstration against President Shevardnadze's government.