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Georgian President Begins Talks In Adjaria

Batumi, Georgia; 18 March 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has opened talks in Batumi with the leader of the autonomous republic of Adjaria.

Saakashvili arrived at Adjar leader Aslan Abashidze's heavily guarded residence, which was surrounded by a crowd of several thousand rival supporters of both leaders.

Earlier today, before reaching Batumi, Saakashvili said he "will do everything to preserve peace" in Georgia. But he said his priority is to "unify" the country.

Saakashvili has said he would be willing to lift economic sanctions imposed on Adjaria if Abashidze agrees to ensure democratic conditions for the region's participation in Georgia's 28 March legislative elections.

Saakashvili imposed the partial economic blockade after he was prevented by Adjar security forces from entering the province on 14 March.