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Explosion Rocks Georgian Labor Party's Headquarters - 2003-11-29

An early morning explosion in the capital of Georgia broke the calm that has prevailed during the peaceful revolution that toppled former President Eduard Shevardnadze. A bomb went off outside the office of a political party opposed to the country's new leaders.

No one was injured in the blast, which shattered windows and left a hole in the sidewalk near the building that houses the Labor Party headquarters in Georgia's capital, Tbilisi.

But the head of the party was quick to blame the incident on the leaders who led the protests against former President Shevardnadze.

While opposing the Shevardnadze government, the Labor Party was also fiercely critical of the three opposition leaders who are now effectively running the country, especially Mikhail Saakashvili.

Mr. Saakashvili spearheaded the mass demonstrations in downtown Tbilisi that forced the 75-year-old president to resign last Sunday. He is now considered the front-runner in the special presidential election scheduled for January 4.

Mr. Saakashvili and the third key leader, interim President Nino Burjanadze, have acknowledged there will be difficulties as Georgia emerges from the Shevardnadze period.

But they have expressed the need for tolerance and openness, as well as the hope that the coming election will be free and fair.

Various foreign countries, including the United States, have offered to provide assistance to Georgia to help ensure that happens.

Another problem for the new government is how to deal with three separatist regions within Georgia, two of which have long claimed to be completely independent.

The leaders of those three regions held a meeting Friday in Moscow to discuss their strategy, given the change of power in Tbilisi.

South Ossetia and Abkhazia have both said they want to join Russia, while the leader of the Black Sea region of Ajaria declared a state of emergency after Mr. Shevardnadze's resignation.

Foreign countries are watching developments in Georgia closely, as violence or further political unrest in the country could lead to new instability throughout the volatile region.