Independent news broadcasts and demonstrations were banned.

The US warned that the state of emergency harmed the efforts by Mikhail Saakashvili, the Georgian president, to integrate the small Caucasus nation into the EU and Nato.

Saakashvili has called early presidential elections for January to try to defuse the worst political crisis he has faced in the four years since he came to power in the so-called Rose revolution.

The Russian foreign ministry describe the vote as a "farce" to "keep the current government in power".

Saakashvili has accused Russia of meddling in his country's affairs. 

PM replaced

In another development, Saakashvili told reporters on Friday that Zurab Noghaideli, Georgia's prime minister, had resigned and is being replaced by Lado Gurgenidze, a commercial bank chief.

  

In a clear bid to shore up his popularity, dented by the events of recent weeks, the president said after a government meeting: "With the new prime minister we will have new energy, new force."

  

Meanwhile prime minister Gurgenidze said he would work to rebuild trust in the government.

  

"My mission will be to establish a dialogue with society, to build a consensus with the people, whose message we have heard," he said.


"The priority will be new jobs, new jobs, new jobs."

  

Government image

 

Opposition leaders were not impressed. They said the appointment of a new prime minister would make no difference to the government's image.

  

"Concerning the nomination of a new prime minister, my view is the sooner Saakashvili announces his own resignation, the better," Giorgi Khaindrava, an opposition leader, said.

  

Saakashvili's critics have questioned the fairness of his decision to hold a snap presidential poll in January.