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8 Apr, 2009 08:00

Georgian opposition prepares to rally

Opposition parties in Georgia are planning mass rallies for April 9 in Tbilisi. The demonstrators are expected to express their contempt for President Mikhail Saakashvili, and demand his resignation.

Georgia's media says a Ukrainian cargo ship carrying rubber bullets and batons has arrived in the Georgian port of Poti. It adds that Kiev may be planning to send special forces to help break up possible riots.

The opposition, comprised of some 17 parties, accuses the president of many things from corruption to inadvisable military moves such as the August conflict over South Ossetia.

”The problem lies in very many problems that have been accumulated over the years, and that have to do with democracy, with rule of law, with lack of human rights like the freedom of press,” said one of the opposition leaders, Salome Zurabishvili.

Some 150,000 people are expected to come out onto the streets of Tbilisi. And while the opposition says it will stand strong as long as it takes, Saakashvili is calling for dialogue.

“Taking into consideration the fact that 20% of Georgia is occupied, that a threat still exists, and that we need to liberate our territories, there is no alternative to dialogue,” he said. “But dialogue is necessary even with the smallest and the most radical group.”

Meanwhile, many fear that history will repeat itself. The last mass protests against Saakashvili, that took place on November 7, 2007, were violently dispersed, with hundreds injured.

Irakly Alasania, leader of the opposition association 'Alliance for Georgia,' suggested law enforcement officers not apply force if ordered to this time, saying that the consequences would be “catastrophic for the country” and would lead to chaos.