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Georgian President Warns Adjar Leader

28 April 2004 -- Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili warned yesterday that law enforcement agencies will act against Adjar leader Aslan Abashidze if he continues to defy the central government.

"If that person [Abashidze] continues this way for long, naturally, the law enforcement agencies will deal with him, but only with him [personally]," Saakashvili said in Kyiv.

Saakashvili said the overall situation in the autonomous region of Adjaria is not "tense."

Saakashvili's comments come as Georgia prepares to hold a large military exercise north of Adjaria. The chief of staff of the Georgian military, General Givi Iukuridze, was quoted by Interfax as saying that the exercises-- which begin on 30 April -- will include tanks, other armored vehicles, and air-defense systems. He said that "the exercises are not in any way intended as a provocation toward Adjaria."

Also yesterday, Georgia's Deputy Security Minister Gigi Ugulava said about 50 members of an elite Adjar "rapid-response" squad has rejected Abashidze's authority and come to Tbilisi.