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Georgian President Ready to Meet Opposition - 2003-11-10

Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze has reconfirmed his readiness to meet with the political opposition in a bid to end demonstrations that have extended into a second week. The protesters are charging fraud in the November 2 parliamentary elections, and are also calling for the president's ouster.

Nearly 3,000 demonstrators have converged outside Georgia's parliament in Tbilisi to continue protests that began after the political opposition and Western rights groups alleged major vote fraud and manipulation in the recent parliament election.

Opposition leaders say they would not have to continue the protests if President Shevardnadze would agree to their demands, laid out in a meeting late Sunday.

Mr. Shevardnadze says he can not annul the election results, as the opposition demands. He says only a court can do that.

But before leaving on a one-day visit to Western Georgia, Mr. Shevardnadze again expressed his readiness to meet with the opposition. Russia's Itar-Tass news agency quotes Mr. Shevardnadze as saying he would meet with the opposition as many times as needed to bring the stand-off to a peaceful end.