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Georgian Prime Minister Resigns, Citing Poor Health


Grigol Mgaloblishvili

Grigol Mgaloblishvili

TBILISI (Reuters) -- Georgian Prime Minister Grigol Mgaloblishvili has resigned, citing poor health, after three months in the job, in the latest government upheaval of President Mikheil Saakashvili's five-year reign.

The 35-year-old was Georgia's fourth prime minister since Saakashvili came to power on the back of the November 2003 Rose Revolution promising stability and reform.

Mgaloblishvili was appointed on November 1 as Saakashvili sought to overhaul the government after Georgia's crushing military defeat by Russia in their five-day August war.

He blamed his poor health after two bouts of treatment in Germany for a kidney condition.

"According to the doctors, I need another two months of intensive treatment," he told a news conference. "Georgia cannot afford to have a prime minister who is not in good shape."

Saakashvili named 33-year-old Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Nika Gilauri to replace Mgaloblishvili.

He also appointed Gilauri's 30-year-old deputy, Kakha Baindurashvili, as finance minister. "We carried out a mechanical reshuffle," Saakashvili told a televised meeting of the cabinet.

The outgoing premier thanked Saakashvili and said he could rely on his support after his recovery. Georgian media reports have spoken of a rift between the two, with Saakashvili increasingly disappointed with the prime minister's performance.

Georgian and Russian media reported last month that Saakashvili hit Mgaloblishvili during an argument.

Saakashvili has publicly denied this, and Mgaloblishvili said on January 30: "The president made a detailed comment on this, I don't think I need to comment further."

But the latest government upheaval could fuel opposition criticism of Saakashvili's style of government. His opponents accuse him of having an autocratic streak that has stifled media freedom and concentrated power on a handpicked inner circle.

The criticism grew after the August war, when Russia repelled a Georgian assault on breakaway South Ossetia. The rebel region threw off Tbilisi's rule in the early 1990s, and was recognized by Russia as an independent state after the war.

Around a dozen opposition parties issued a joint declaration on January 29 calling on Saakashvili to resign. He has ruled out quitting.
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