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US Sends Envoy to Georgia to Help Defuse Political Standoff - 2003-11-18

The United States has dispatched an envoy to the republic of Georgia to try to defuse a stand off between President Eduard Shevardnadze and his opponents, who are demanding he step down.

Near-daily demonstrations against the Shevardnadze government began as a protest over parliamentary elections November 2, judged by election observers to be flawed. They quickly escalated into a more widespread show of anger over charges of government mismanagement and corruption, prompting dire warnings from President Shevardnadze that the situation could quickly lead to civil war.

Tuesday, a senior American diplomat, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Lynn Pascoe, met with the Georgian president and opposition leaders in Tbilisi, urging both sides to resolve the election dispute in a credible way without violence.

The former Soviet republic is strategically located, between Russia, the Black Sea and Turkey, and has received $1 billion in American aid over the past decade. In addition, the United States is spending tens of millions of dollars to train Georgian soldiers to fight terrorism to counter what the Pentagon says may be an al-Qaida presence in the Caucasus.