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Georgian President Determined To Rein In Separatists

16 December 2004 -- Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili once again emphasized his intention to take control of two separatist regions.

He said today that his new defense minister will stay in his post until Georgia's territorial integrity is restored.

Saakashvili spoke while presenting his new military chief, Irakli Okruashvili, to the staff of the Defense Ministry. Okruashvili, who was interior minister until a security shake-up on 14 December, was the third defense minister he has appointed this year.

The Georgian president vowed Okruashvili "will remain in the post of defense minister until the restoration of Georgia's territorial integrity."

Saakashvili won a power struggle with the defiant leader of the Black Sea province of Adjara earlier this year and established stronger central-government control over the region.

But he has yet to rein in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, two regions that have been de facto independent since separatist wars in the early 1990s and have Russian support.