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Georgian President Ready To Talk With Abkhaz Leader

Georgian President Saakashvili 3 December 2004 -- Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said that he is ready to open talks with Sergei Bagapsh, the declared winner of last October's presidential election in the separatist Georgian republic of Abkhazia.

Saakashvili made the offer at a meeting with a group of Georgian academics involved in Abkhaz peace talks. "It is absolutely clear that those who have been elected express the opinion of the absolute majority of Abkhaz who live on Abkhaz territory at the present stage. This is why the Georgian government is ready to enter into dialogue with this leadership, with this team, and personally with Bagapsh, who enjoys the support of most Abkhaz."

Bagapsh immediately rejected the offer, which he described as a "provocation." Abkhazia seceded from Georgia in the early 1990s and has been maintaining close ties with Russia since then.

Moscow, which supports the outgoing Abkhaz administration, has refused to recognize Bagapsh's victory and threatened an economic blockade if he goes ahead with his inauguration on 6 December.

Bagapsh has said that he will go ahead with his plans, "whatever the pressures."

(Imedi TV/Interfax/Regum Russia)

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