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Georgian PM Says Batumi Disarmament Talks Failed

Batumi, Georgia; 13 April 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania today said he had failed to secure the disarmament of armed militias in the autonomous province of Adjaria.

Addressing reporters in Batumi after talks with Adjar leader Aslan Abashidze, Zhvania said the meeting ended inconclusively. In Zhvania's words, Abashidze refused "even to consider the disarmament issue."

Tension between Batumi and Tbilisi heightened last month when Georgian authorities imposed economic sanctions on the unruly Black Sea province. Fearing possible military intervention, Abashidze ordered that weapons be distributed among the population.

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who has vowed to restore Tbilisi's control over the region, yesterday reiterated threats to dissolve the Adjar parliament unless local leaders agree to disband both their militia groups and security forces.

He also offered financial compensation for those Adjar militiamen who would lay down their weapons.