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Aslan Abashidze Washington, 3 May 2004 (RFE/RL) - The U.S. government has called on Adjar leader Aslan Abashidze to disarm paramilitary formations under his control and reaffirmed its support for efforts by Georgia's government to restore its authority over the unruly region.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters today that recent actions by Abashidze and his government raise concerns that he may be trying to provoke a military crisis with Georgia's new democratically elected leadership.

Boucher said Washington is deeply concerned about Abashidze's decision to destroy bridges that link the autonomous region and other parts of Georgia, disrupting key international transportation links.

"We welcome [Georgian] President [Mikheil] Saakashvili's announcement that Georgia would not use force, and we continue to encourage the government of Georgia to use political and economic tools in its efforts to restore the rule of law in Adjaria. We also call upon Adjar leader Abashidze to disarm the paramilitary forces in Adjaria, as he's previously agreed to do," Boucher said.

Boucher said that the fundamental issue for the United States is that Adjaria is part of Georgia.
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