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Georgia/Abkhazia: Leader Says Voting Will not Damage Prospects

Sukhumi, 24 November 1996 (RFE/RL) - The leader of the breakaway Abkhazia region of Georgia, Vladislav Ardzinba, says he believes yesterday's parliamentary elections there will not harm the peace process.

Ardzinba today said the situation now, with the election successfully concluded, will actually help in the peaceful regulation of the conflict with the authorities in Tbilisi. The legislative elections, the first held since Abkhazia broke away, defied strong protests from the Georgian government.

The Abkhaz electoral commission said over 80 per cent of the electorate of nearly 220,000 voters went to the polls. Absent were some 300,000 ethnic Georgians, who fled after the outbreak of fighting in 1992. The war ended in 1993 with the separatists in control of Abkhazia.

Yesterday's poll was marked by violence in the Gali region, close to Georgian-controlled territory, but the region's administrator, Ruslan Kishmariva, said ultimately the violence had no impact on the election outcome.