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Georgia's Presidential Candidates Register for Elections - 2003-12-02

In the former Soviet republic of Georgia, candidates have finished filing for the upcoming presidential election scheduled for January 4.

By Tuesday's closing deadline, more than a dozen candidates had filed paperwork to run for president of Georgia.

The candidates include a designer, a former regional official and a 42-year-old female economist. But the candidate most analysts and the Georgian public consider to be the runaway frontrunner is Mikhail Saakashvili.

Mr. Saakashvili, a 35-year-old American-trained lawyer, organized and headed up the nearly month-long street demonstrations that led to Eduard Shevardnadze's recent resignation from the presidency.

Campaigning in Georgia's capital, Tbilisi, hours before the filing deadline closed, Mr. Saakashvili reiterated his desire to see Mr. Shevardnadze leave Georgia at least temporarily, from now until the elections can be held.

He said Mr. Shevardnadze posed no immediate threat but was rather, in his words, an irritant.

Mr. Shevardnadze has said he plans to remain in Georgia and to write a book about the highs and lows of his presidency.

Meanwhile, delegations from the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the United States arrived in Georgia Tuesday to discuss the country's most urgent financial requirements.

This after Georgia's interim president, Nino Burjanadze, warned that the country risks financial collapse without immediate western aid.

Ms. Burjanadze's appeal was answered during Monday's meeting in the Netherlands of the Organization For Security and Cooperation in Europe, the OSCE, which pledged to grant Georgia just over $6 million for the holding of fresh elections.

The interim Georgian leadership is still examining whether it will be possible to hold parliamentary elections at the same time as the presidential poll.

Georgia's highest court invalidated the results of the last parliamentary election because of vote manipulation and fraud.

Earlier, the Kremlin said Russian President Vladimir Putin telephoned President Bush to discuss the situation in Georgia. According to a Kremlin statement, the two leaders agreed that international monitoring of the upcoming elections is vital to ensure stability in Georgia and the rest of the Caucasus region.