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Georgia's Parliamentary Elections Scheduled for March - 2004-01-09


Georgia's interim leader has announced that new parliamentary elections will be held on March 28, while the man who won last Sunday's presidential election has announced plans to tackle rampant corruption in the former Soviet republic.

Georgian interim leader Nino Burdzhanadze says the vote for a new parliament will take place on March 28, later than originally planned, to give the country's new authorities time to prepare.

The announcement came as president-elect Mikhail Saakashvili said he plans to sell-off state residences as part of a drive to stamp out corruption in Georgia.

Mr. Saakashvili, a U.S. trained lawyer who won a landslide victory in last Sunday's presidential election, was a key leader of a popular uprising that last November ousted longtime president Eduard Shevardnadze. He had made the fight against corruption one of his top campaign priorities, and renewed his pledge in a televised interview Friday.

The 36-year-old lawyer says all top officials in his new government - including himself - will live modestly and without the luxurious country houses, called dachas in Russian, that have long been the norm. Mr. Saakashvili, who is now living in one wing of the luxurious Krtsanisi presidential residence outside the capital, Tbilisi, says he will soon move to a more modest building.

All government dachas and even the main presidential residence are to be sold off to raise public money.

Georgia's government is nearly bankrupt, and Mr. Saakashvili says the funds raised from the sell-off will go towards dealing with chronic social problems. Earlier this week, he called on foreign governments to freeze the bank accounts held by officials of the ousted regime, as well as members of Mr. Shevardnadze's family.

Separately, Mr. Saakashvili said he was pleased that U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell will attend his presidential inauguration on January 25, calling this "an important thing for our country."