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Prime Minister Khajimba (file photo) 12 October 2004 -- The leader of Georgia's separatist republic of Abkhazia today condemned a decision to declare opposition candidate Sergei Bagapsh the winner of the disputed 3 October presidential election.

In a statement posted on Abkhazia's official website, President Vladislav Ardzinba said the decision was made under duress and in violation of republican legislation. He also cautioned against possible bloodshed.

Abkhazia's Central Election Commission yesterday pronounced Bagapsh the winner of the polls, with nearly 51 percent of the votes. Bagapsh's main rival and government candidate Raul Khadjimba has protested the move, saying he wants to have the election invalidated.

Talking to reporters today in Sukhum, Prime Minister Nodar Khashba also criticized the commission's decision, saying only the Supreme Court is authorized to validate the polls: "This issue can be finally settled only in court. We all agreed on that. Yesterday, I met in that very same room with the presidential candidates, the chairman of the Supreme Court, the prosecutor-general, [representatives of] all our law-enforcement agencies, the speaker of parliament, and the vice president. I wanted to have such a enlarged meeting with one single purpose: I wanted to call upon everyone to stay calm and obey the law. Everyone agreed with this decision."

Speaking to reporters in central Sukhum earlier today, Khadjimba, who until recently was prime minister, said his supporters would demonstrate later in the day to demand what he called justice: "This is not a legal step on the part of our opponents. We were considering sorting out our dispute before court. But instead of that they practically exerted pressure on the CEC in such a way that it took a decision that suits them. We will seek justice only through peaceful means. Our supporters who will come here today will demonstrate that not all of Abkhazia is siding with Sergei Vasilevich Bagapsh."

The Central Election Commission yesterday declared opposition candidate Bagapsh the winner, with nearly 51 percent of the vote. That same commission last week admitted to election fraud and ordered a partial revote.

Claiming widespread irregularities, Khadjimba is demanding a countrywide rerun be held. Russia, which helped Abkhazia win de facto independence in the early 1990s, said today the situation in the Black Sea province remained confused. The Kremlin backs Khadjimba for the post because of his more pro-Moscow stance. Russia also expressed hope that Georgia will continue to seek a peaceful solution of its dispute with its breakaway republic regardless of which candidate wins.

(Russian TV/Georgian agencies/Abkhaziya-info)
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