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Georgia Dismisses Defense, Foreign Ministers

Batu Kutelia will become Georgia's new defense minister.

Batu Kutelia will become Georgia's new defense minister.

TBILISI (Reuters) -- Georgian Prime Minister Grigol Mgaloblishvili has dismissed the country's defense and foreign affairs ministers in a major shakeup following August's devastating military defeat by Russia.

"Changes need to be made in the sphere of defense," he told a news conference. "It is important to strengthen foreign policy and more experience is needed in this direction."

The changes come amid a storm of opposition criticism of President Mikheil Saakashvili's government and its loss to Russia in a five-day war that followed Tbilisi's military assault on its breakaway South Ossetia region.

Mgaloblishvili, who was appointed by Saakashvili in late October, said Defense Minister David Kezerashvili would be replaced by his deputy, Batu Kutelia.

Mgaloblishvili named Culture Minister Grigol Vashadze as the new foreign minister, replacing 31-year-old Ekaterine Tkeshelashvili.

Separately, a political source told Reuters that Georgia's popular ambassador to the United Nations, Irakly Alasania, had resigned.

Alasania has been touted as a potential challenger to Saakashvili.