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4 Nov, 2007 21:20

Protests are campaign of lies: Georgian President

The Georgian President has broken his silence about massive protests in the capital by describing them as a campaign of lies targeted against him. Up to 50,000 Georgians have rallied in Tbilisi since Thursday, calling for Mikhal Saakashvili’s resignation.

In his first interview since the rallies began, Mr Saakashvili didn’t even mention the possibility of stepping down and ruled out early elections.

“The decision made by the Georgian parliament last December to hold the parliamentary and presidential elections simultaneously in autumn 2008 was well considered by the parliament administration and the President with due account of domestic and international factors,” the Georgian President said.

“We are facing a situation when there will be elections in Russia, elections in Georgia and Kosovo and Abkhazia. A confrontation in Abkhazia could have started before the elections. All of this was planned to put Georgia in a hard situation before the elections,” he added.

Mr Saakashvili stressed that people who took part in the rally had the full right to do it according to the law.

“This is their [protesters'] constitutional right. But those who masterminded their actions are another case. The Rose Revolution is being badly imitated now,” he said. 

Discussing possible sponsors of the opposition rally, the Georgian President, as usual, pointed towards Russia.

“There’s a concrete Russian oligarch power that co-ordinates the actions with a concrete country and political forces. That is made to destabilise the situation in Georgia before elections in Russia,” he explained.

On another issue which some protesters have raised, the President did say he was willing to look at changing some regulations that govern the election process.

Protestors say they want change as the government is unable to settle social and economic issues facing the country.

What sparked protests?

The rally is the second of its type in as many months. In September, 10,000 protestors took to the streets after former defence minister Irakly Okruashvili was arrested on corruption charges, after accusing president Saakashvili of a string of crimes.

Okruashvili eventually withdrew the accusations, before being released on bail.

The former minister left the country on Thursday and the Georgian government says he is receiving medical treatment abroad, though his supporters deny this.

“The government will have to fulfill the demands of its people and the opposition – and that is civilised democratic elections. I think the party of Saakashvili has had its day in the political life of Georgia,” stated Georgy Khaindrav, one of the Georgian opposition leaders.

Businessman Badri Patarkatsishvili has provided financial support for the opposition and has been using his television channel Imedi also.

The opposition, made up of 10 parties, appear to be united over the call for early elections, but traditionally they’ve been ideologically divided.