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World Leaders Applaud Transition in Georgia - 2003-11-24

World leaders are welcoming the peaceful transition of power in Georgia, following the resignation Sunday of President Eduard Shevardnadze in the wake of massive anti-government protests.

The U.S. State Department welcomed the non-violent transition of power in Georgia. In a statement, it said the United States will support the interim government in holding free and fair parliamentary elections in the future.

In separate phone calls, Secretary of State Colin Powell offered his support to Georgia's new interim president, and also thanked Mr. Shevardnadze for helping to resolve the crisis peacefully.

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov was in Tbilisi Sunday to help negotiate a resolution. He said his country's main concerns are a peaceful transition in Georgia and stability in the region.

In comments to the French Press Agency, European Union spokeswoman Cristina Gallach expressed satisfaction that Mr. Shevardnadze's departure was peaceful. But she added that the situation remains volatile.

Germany is extending the warmest welcome to Mr. Shevardnadze, saying it would be willing to host him. Mr. Shevardnadze played a key role in negotiating the 1990 German reunification when he was foreign minister of the Soviet Union.

Georgia is expected to start consultations with foreign governments on financial and other aid as early as Monday.

The country lies in an oil-rich region that is strategic for both the United States and Russia. Moscow has military units stationed in Georgia, while U-S troops are training Georgian forces to fight Chechen insurgents in Georgia.