Accessibility links

Georgia's Interim President Holds Talks with Separatist Leader on Upcoming Election - 2003-12-10

Georgia's interim president Nino Burdjanadze is holding talks with the leader of the separatist region of Adjaria on the Black Sea. The talks are aimed at find a way to preserving the integrity of Georgia in the wake of the ouster of former Georgian president Eduard Shevardnadze last month.

Georgia's acting president Nino Burjanadze's says she hopes to convince Adjaria's powerful leader Aslan Abashidze that his people should take part in the presidential election scheduled for January 4.

Mr. Abashidze has declared that the semi-autonomous Adjarian region won't take part in the vote, in which popular Georgian leader Mikhail Saakashvili is expected to win.

It was under Mr. Saakashvili's leadership that the people of Georgia ousted President Shevardnadze's government last month. The Adjarian leader, who has openly quarreled with Mr. Saakashvili, denounced the overthrow as an illegal coup. After Mr. Shevardnadze's resignation, he declared a state of emergency in Adjaria, and hinted the region might move to declare its independence from Georgia.

Mr. Saakashvili has called Mr. Abashidze a feudal-type ruler and dictator.

Russia gave a boost to Mr. Abashidze Tuesday announcing it was easing visa restrictions for citizens of Adjaria, but not for the rest of Georgia. Georgian officials reacted angrily to the move, accusing Moscow of interference in its national affairs.

Since the new leaders came to power in Georgia, Moscow has courted not only Adjaria but two other Georgian regions that have declared outright independence from Georgia.

Analysts have long accused Moscow of backing those separatist regions to maintain its control and influence over Georgia.

Just as the Georgian leader was preparing to leave for Adjaria, a small bomb exploded near the office of a mobile telephone company in Georgia's capital Tbilisi. The blast caused no injuries and minimal damage to the company, which is partially owned by a son-in-law of Mr. Shevardnadze.

The bombing is the latest in a series of incidents that have taken place in Georgia since Mr. Shevardnadze's ouster, raising fears of more violence as the presidential vote nears.