Opposition meets Saakashvili allies

Georgian opposition leaders urging president’s resignation hold talks in capital.

Georgia protesters
Wednesday's violence had raised fears of a wider anti-government rebellion [EPA]

The decision to hold the meetings followed the intervention of Georgia’s influential Orthodox Church leader and an appeal from the European Union to defuse tensions in the country after protests spilled over into violence in the former Soviet republic.

No ‘trust’

Salome Zurabishvili, an opposition leader, said the talks would be aimed to “prepare very quickly for a meeting with the president”.

“Tomorrow, we are going to have a mass protest on the 30th day of the peaceful demonstrations in front of parliament.

“We hope that the meeting with Saakashvili can take place before that,” she said.

Matthew Collin, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Tbilisi, said: “The opposition don’t trust Saakashvili nor his allies, even if this meeting [with the president] does take place, it’s difficult to know what it can achieve.”

Collin said that the opposition had now cancelled plans to block main roads across the country but that a blockade of streets in the capital was continuing.

Saakashvili was on a visit to Prague, the Czech capital, but was expected to return to Tbilisi on Friday night, his spokesman Vano Noniashvili said.

Explosive situation

A brief, bloodless mutiny at a tank base outside Tbilisi on Tuesday and clashes between police and protesters at a police base on Wednesday that injured 28 people have raised fears of a wider anti-government rebellion.

Patriarch Ilia II from the Georgian Orthodox Church has warned that the situation in the country was “in danger of exploding”.

Collin said: “Wednesday’s events raised fears that the political standoff would escalate into more violence.”

Critics say Saakashvili has monopolised power [GALLO/GETTY]

US-educated Saakashvili came to power on the back of the 2003 “Rose Revolution” on a promise to consolidate Georgian democracy.

Critics say instead he has monopolised power, but a month of protests and roadblocks has failed to unseat him and analysts say the opposition lacks sufficient support.

The government dispersed the last mass demonstrations against Saakashvili in 2007 with tear gas and rubber bullets.

Saakashvili accused Moscow of fomenting rebellion in Georgia on Tuesday, when authorities said battalion commanders at a mutinous military base had refused orders and several serving and former military officers were arrested.

Russia said the accusation was “insane” and that Saakashvili was trying to shift blame for his own domestic problems.

The turmoil has cast a shadow over the start of month-long Nato military exercises in Georgia which began this week.

Source: News Agencies