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Georgian Opposition Parties Name Gachechiladze as Presidential Candidate

Georgian opposition parties have named lawmaker Levan Gachechiladze as their presidential candidate in elections expected in January.

Party leaders say that if elected, Gachechiladze plans to ask former Foreign Minister Salome Zourabichvili to form a new government.

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili proposed holding early elections January 5 as a step toward resolving the political crisis shaking the country. Opposition activists staged six days of mass protests in Tbilisi accusing the president of corruption and demanding he step down. Police broke up the protests Wednesday.

Mr. Saaskashvili has imposed a state of emergency, banning public demonstrations and all independent newscasts

U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Bryza urged Georgia to lift the emergency decree, saying it has curbed the country's drive toward democratic reforms.

The U.S. official spoke to reporters Monday in Tbilisi, after talks with Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Nogaideli.

President Saakashvili has accused Russia of stirring the crisis, a charge that Moscow has denied.