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11 Jan, 2008 20:22

Georgia talks fail to end election dispute

A meeting between Georgian President elect Mikhail Saakashvili and opposition leader Levan Gachechiladze has ended in stalemate. It's reported the pair tried to find a way out of the country's political impasse.

The opposition’s demand for airtime on a government-controlled TV station was met and the National Council of Opposition seems to be closer to resolving its dispute with the country's authorities over the results of the Presidential election.

Nevertheless, Gachechiladze insists the poll was marred by fraud and a second round of voting must be held to prevent further unrest. He said “Georgia’s struggle for salvation continues”.

“I had a chance to meet Mikhail Saakashvili. I told him that the struggle continued no matter what forms it could take – the form of a rally, a demonstration or a hunger strike. Anyway, it will be a form of everyday disobedience,” Levan Gachechiladze said. 

Earlier, they threatened to go on hunger strike and hold mass rallies calling for a recount or a run-off of the election and more exposure on state-controlled TV.

Levan Gachechiladze said the demand for more access to TV was key.

“They don't give us the right to appeal to people. That's why we are starting a protest action. We need the opportunity to appear live on TV,” Gachechiladze said.

The opposition claimed the Georgian public broadcaster was distorting the news.

Representatives of the channel categorically deny any bias in their coverage. They have agreed to give Gachechiladze and his team live airtime on their flagship news show.

Patarkatsishvili charged

Meanwhile, the Prosecutor's General's office has charged tycoon Badri Patarkatsishvili, who came third in the election, with trying to overthrow the government and planning a terrorist act.

The charges relate to a secretly recorded conversation the tycoon had with a top interior ministry official. In the conversation, Patarkatsishvili offers the official $US 100 million for his help in staging post election unrest.
His bank account in Georgia has been frozen. But Patarkatsishvili, currently in exile, will not be charged directly. He visited Georgia during the November protests, and left shortly afterwards.

Mzia Patarkatsishvili, Badri’s sister, said his lawyers will collect the ruling from the Prosecutor’s Office and will begin studying the case.

“Badri knows everything about it. Of course, he has no intention of visiting the Prosecutor’s Office,” she added.

Saakashvili offers opposition Cabinet posts

On Wednesday, Georgia's Central Election Commission declared former Mikhail Saakashvili the winner of the presidential election.

The man who is now almost certain to be inaugurated as President has been keen to offer the hand of friendship to the opposition. Some analysts say it may be an attempt to take the sting out of a mass protest called for January 13.

Mikhail Saakashvili says the country must unite to face future challenges.

“I don’t think marginalisation or radicalisation is in anybody's interests,” he said.

“I think we should reach out to the opposition and make next the government more inclusive. I think we should be more sensitive to the concerns of the people,” he added.

Saakashvili even intends to offer positions in his new government to opposition representatives. But with the opposition promising massive protests on Sunday, it's going to take more than offers of co-operation to alleviate tensions.