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Georgian Business Tycoon Patarkatsishvili Withdraws from Presidential Race

Georgian business tycoon and opposition candidate Badri Patarkatsishvili has withdrawn from next month's presidential elections.

Patarkatsishvili co-owns Georgia's opposition television station, Imedi. He acted after the country's other television stations broadcast a videotape allegedly showing him offering $100 million to Interior Ministry operations chief Irakli Kodua.

The payment was to be made in exchange for Kodua's pledge not to use police force against opposition protests after the January 5 elections. The tape was reportedly recorded during a meeting between the two in London Sunday.

Georgian authorities say Patarkatsishvili and other opposition leaders are planning the protests should former President Mikhail Saakashvili win re-election.

Earlier Thursday, Levan Gachechiladze, the nominee of the country's nine-party opposition coalition, accused Patarkatsishvili and Mr. Saakashvili of what he called "dirty games" in the election process. He urged both men to withdraw from the race.

Mr. Saakashvili resigned on November 25, as required by law, to run for re-election in the presidential vote. He announced the elections after mass protests in Tbilisi last month ended in clashes with police. Opposition activists had accused the president of corruption.

Wednesday, Imedi television suspended broadcasts in response to what managers called the extremely tense political situation in the country.