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Burdjanadze Offers To Help Defuse Tension With Adjaria

Tbilisi, 16 March 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Georgian parliament speaker Nino Burdjanadze today offered to go to Batumi, the capital of the autonomous region of Adjaria, to help resolve a standoff between regional leaders and the central government in Tbilisi.

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili yesterday imposed a partial economic blockade on Adjaria in a bid to force Aslan Abashidze, the unruly head of the Black Sea province, to recognize the authority of his government.

Addressing reporters in Tbilisi, Burdjanadze said that she is ready to go to Batumi provided she receives assurances from Abashidze that her visit will yield positive results.

In comments made to RFE/RL's Georgian Service, Adjar Interior Minister Djemal Gogitidze said that the Georgian envoy is welcome in Batumi. But he said that there is little hope her visit will help reach any breakthrough. "After what happened, the [so-called] confidence factor is below zero. It is not up to me to decide such things, but Aslan Abashidze welcomes any form of dialogue. It would be very good if we could resolve this standoff through dialogue and talks. But, I repeat, our confidence toward central authorities is equal to zero," he said.

Saakashvili wants to restore Tbilisi's administrative control over the province ahead of Georgia's 28 March parliamentary elections. Adjaria, which has enjoyed widespread autonomy for more than a decade, claims the Georgian leader is plotting to overthrow Abashidze.

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