Monday, March 30, 2009

Georgia's Saakashvili warns opposition over unrest

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has called for dialogue with the opposition but warned it against trying to force his overthrow in anti-government protests next month.

The pro-Western president has come under increasing pressure since the former Soviet state's disastrous defeat by Russia in a five-day war last year. The opposition is demanding he resign.
Police last week arrested 10 men and said they had uncovered a plot to ignite unrest during opposition rallies due to begin on April 9.

"This is no time for radicalism, this is a time for dialogue," Saakashvili said late on Saturday. "Now is not the time for wrangling, but for unity."

For days, pro-government television stations have been airing secretly filmed police video of the suspects, alleged to have links to the opposition, buying automatic weapons and discussing plans to take on security forces in Tbilisi.

The opposition denies planning armed unrest, and has accused the authorities of a smear campaign.

Criticism of Saakashvili's record on democracy since coming to power in the peaceful 2003 "Rose Revolution" has deepened since Russia crushed a Georgian assault on the breakaway region of South Ossetia last August.

Tensions around South Ossetia remain high. A Georgian police officer was killed yesterday near the de facto border zone in what police said was a landmine blast.

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