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Georgian President Fires Armed Forces Head

25 August 2004 -- President Mikheil Saakashvili sacked the head of Georgia's armed forces today.

Defense Ministry spokesperson Irina Gotsadze said the president signed an order dismissing Givi Iukuridze, chief of the General Staff. Iukuridze's deputy, U.S.-educated Vaktang Kapanadze, will take over.

Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania told Georgian television that he and Saakashvili "weren't satisfied with how the General Staff worked."

Russian news agencies quote Saakashvili as saying that Georgia's military is adopting NATO standards and that its General Staff must be led by officers who underwent training in Western military schools.

Today's announcement followed weeks of clashes between Georgian forces and separatists in the breakaway region of South Ossetia.

Minister for Conflict Resolution Giorgi Khaindrava told Rustavi-2 television that the deaths of 16 Georgian soldiers in South Ossetia had hastened Iukuridze's departure.

(Reuters/Interfax/ITAR-TASS/Caucasus Press)