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Saakashvili Gives Ultimatum To Private Army Leaders

Tbilisi, 1 April 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili today vowed to disband all three "illegal private armies" that he said currently operate on national territory.

Addressing servicemen during a military exercise, the Georgian president said all those who would refuse to lay down weapons would be considered "traitors."

"Besides national armed forces, three private armies, three illegal groups made of armed bandits, are operating on Georgian soil, and some of their members speak Georgian," he said. "We should be aware that any individual who takes up arms and refuses to submit to the Georgian state is a traitor and should be punished as such. Those who are ready to serve Georgia have their place among you [national armed forces]."

He gave no further details, but Georgian media speculate he might have in mind, among others, security forces in the unruly autonomous republic of Adjaria.

Saakashvili, who has vowed to restore the authority of his government in the Black Sea province, earlier this week said he would ask parliament to outlaw the Adjar Security Ministry.

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