23 November 2004 -- Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has said he is committed to ensuring autonomy for separatist ethnic groups in Georgia and faulted Russia for interfering in his country's political conflicts.
Saakashvili made the comments yesterday, in a telephone conference with reporters and analysts one year after he took power.
Georgia accuses Moscow of supporting separatists in two breakaway regions: Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Moscow denies the charges, but says it will defend its interests in Abkhazia, where protests over a disputed election recently turned violent.
Asked about unrest in Abkhazia, Saakashvili said his government is exercising "considerable self-restraint" and hoped to "let things develop in a natural way to avoid complication."