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Georgian OSCE Envoy Quits, Could Join Opposition

Dolidze (right) with Terhi Hakala, head of the OSCE Mission to Georgia, in July 2008

Dolidze (right) with Terhi Hakala, head of the OSCE Mission to Georgia, in July 2008

TBILISI (Reuters) -- Georgia's ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has resigned in what Georgian media said was likely to be a defection to opposition ranks.

Viktor Dolidze's resignation came amid a push by the Greek OSCE chair to salvage its monitoring mission in Georgia from a dispute between Moscow and the West over its mandate in the wake of Georgia's five-day war with Russia last year.

But Georgian media reports suggested the decision was linked to internal politics and an opposition push to unseat President Mikheil Saakashvili.

Dolidze told Georgian television he had quit the Vienna-based European rights and security body and would explain why on his return to Tbilisi next week.

He is seen as close to Irakly Alasania, Georgia's popular former ambassador to the United Nations, who quit after the war and called on Saakashvili to stand down.

Georgian media reports say Dolidze is likely to join forces with Alasania, who has pledged to enter the opposition and is seen as a potential challenger to Saakashvili.

Deputy Foreign Minister Giga Bokeria told Reuters: "I can confirm that our ambassador to the OSCE has resigned. I do not wish to elaborate on the reasons for his resignation."

The president's opponents accuse him of walking into a war Georgia could not possibly win, when he launched an assault on breakaway South Ossetia after months of skirmishes and Russia responded with a devastating counterstrike.