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South Ossetian Leader Says Tbilisi Tried To Bribe Him

28 July 2004 -- South Ossetian President Eduard Kokoity, who is on a visit to Moscow, today claimed Georgian authorities attempted to bribe him and other regional officials in return for dropping separatist claims.

"I was personally offered $20 million and the post of vice president of Georgia. Should I have sworn allegiance [to Tbilisi], Georgia's Constitution would have then been amended accordingly."

Kokoity also said he has audiotapes showing that Georgian deputy Vladimir Gutsayev offered to act as a middleman between the South Ossetian leadership and the Georgian government.

Gutsayev, an ethnic Ossetian, denied the accusations. Speaking on behalf of the Georgian government, State Minister Giorgi Khaindrava described Kokoity's claims as a "criminal offense."

"What Eduard Kokoity is saying is a criminal offense. Such accusations should not be made without proof," he said. South Ossetia proclaimed its independence in the early 1990s, triggering an 18-month armed conflict with Georgia.

(Prime News/Civil Georgia/ITAR-TASS)

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