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Russian FM in Georgia to Resolve Crisis

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov is in neighboring Georgia to mediate a peaceful resolution to the standoff between President Eduard Shevardnadze and Georgia's political opposition. Georgia is now under a state-of-emergency and has two leaders claiming to be president.

Foreign Minister Ivanov says there are no issues that cannot be resolved through dialogue.

Mr. Ivanov flew into Tbilisi on a crisis mission for the bloc of commonwealth nations, which includes Russia and all former Soviet republics including Georgia. First he met the political opposition and later mingled among anti-government protesters outside parliament.

Mr. Ivanov, whose mother was Georgian, greeted the crowd in their native language and said it was necessary to resolve the stand-off through constitutional means. He also urged the demonstrators not to set off provocations.

He later met President Shevardnadze at his residence on the outskirts of the Georgian capital, Tbilisi. But there was no word of any progress.

Georgia is of vital strategic interest to Russia and the west, because it sits in the path of potentially lucrative oil routes.

President Shevardnadze has given the opposition 48 hours from Saturday to vacate parliament and the streets, or else he says he will use all means in his power, including the military, to restore calm.

But there are signs of potential cracks in his hold on control. On Sunday, President Shevardnadze's international legal affairs advisor resigned - the third such senior official to cut ties with the president within a week.

At the same time, there are reports saying that the national guard is switching over to the side of the Georgian opposition. But this could not be independently confirmed.

Georgia's Defense Minister, David Tevzadze, earlier said that he had been given no orders for the use of force. He said his forces had been told to avoid steps that could lead to bloodshed.

But tensions are still running high and Georgia's main opposition leader, Mikhail Saakashvili of the National Movement, is warning his supporters that it is too soon to celebrate.

Mr. Saakashvili says President Shevardnadze may try to reconvene parliament at the Interior Ministry, following the opposition's seizure of parliament on Saturday, and he has urged the people to remain in the streets outside parliament to protect their gains.

A refugee from Abkhazia, is heeding Mr. Saakashvili's appeal. He appeared on the streets late Saturday and returned in the morning, saying he believes in God, the Georgian people and the political opposition.

He says the opposition has promised to bring peaceful change to Georgia and that he is sure they will succeed. He also says he is sure that President Shevardnadze's hold on power in Georgia is over.

The opposition has installed an interim president and is promising new elections in 45 days. President Shevardnadze vows to stay on, and calls the opposition actions a coup.

Opposition charges that Mr. Shevardnadze rigged the November 2 parliamentary elections set off the wide-scale discontent over what the opposition sees as a decade of corruption and misrule.