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Protests In Georgia's Adjaria Reportedly Growing

Aslan Abashidze 5 May 2004 -- News reports from Georgia's autonomous region of Adjaria today say that protests against the rule of Adjar leader Aslan Abashidze are growing.

More than 1,000 people gathered during the night in the Adjar capital Batumi despite a curfew ordered by Abashidze.

Georgian television quoted protest leader Tamaz Diasanidze as telling the crowd that "people are coming down from the hills" to join the protests. Georgian Deputy State Security Minister Gigi Ugulava said that armed men shot at a car convoy carrying protestors toward Batumi early today, wounding two people.

Abashidze has declared a state of emergency and threatened severe measures against the protestors. But Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili called yesterday on security forces in Adjaria to refuse Abashidze's orders, saying the state of emergency is illegal.

Saakashvili called on Abashidze to disarm Adjar paramilitaries and recognize the authority of the Georgian central government in Tbilisi by 12 May.