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13 Apr, 2009 20:41

Thousands rally to oust Georgian president

Some 15,000 protesters have rallied in front of the President's residence and the parliament building in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi. Peaceful protests are set to continue during the upcoming days.

The opposition has rejected proposals to form a coalition government, saying their aim is to oust President Mikhail Saakashvili and not to win seats.

Tents have been set up and hundreds of people filled the small square in front of the building while thousands gathered on the streets adjacent to the residence.

After the completion of the rally, around 20 tents stood and will be occupied by dozens of protesters who are expected to stay – ‘until Saakashvili resigns’.

Levan Gachechiladze of the opposition promised that “every street in Tbilisi will become a protest spot,” and all of Georgia will be involved in the demonstrations in the coming days.

"We declare Saakashvili to be persona non grata in Georgia," said opposition leader Zviad Dzidziguri. He said Georgians would picket Saakashvili everywhere he goes.

Among the many events at the rally, protesters found a moment to release a white rabbit wearing a red tie onto the grounds of the residence hinting, once again, at the now-famous episode when Saakashvili was seen chewing his tie.

The opposition Conservative Party has called the president ‘rabbit’, accusing him of cowardice, and called on protesters to throw vegetables at the residence.

Meanwhile, Tbilisi authorities have labeled as ‘illegal’ the decision by protesters to picket the president’s residence.

As the mayor’s office has not authorized mass rallies in places other than Rustaveli Prospekt, “a 24-hour picketing of the president's residence can be deemed as a violation of the law," according to a source in the mayor’s office as quoted by the Interfax news agency.