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Georgian President Fires Regional Police Officials

13 March 2005 -- Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili today fired a number of senior police officers, accusing them of involvement in smuggling.

Saakashvili, in a live address on national television, said he had fired Alexander Sukhitashvili, the head of police in Shida Kartli Province in central Georgia, and all senior officers in the region.

Saakashvili said he would personally oversee the criminal probe into their alleged misdeeds.

Shida Kartli neighbors Georgia's breakaway province of South Ossetia, which has run its own affairs since driving out Georgian government forces in 1992.

Georgian officials say South Ossetia has become a major smuggling center. Saakashvili has pledged to bring South Ossetia, and another separatist region, Abkhazia, back under central control.