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Georgian President Publicly Chastises Ministers

7 January 2005 -- Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has called on two cabinet ministers to make peace with each other, criticizing them for publicly arguing over alleged fraud in the army.

In televised comments, Saakashvili yesterday told newly appointed Defense Minister Irakli Okruashvili and Deputy Prime Minister Giorgi Baramidze he would no longer tolerate public disputes on his team.

"I do not intend to tolerate that. You two are my friends and I value you both. But we must put an end to these practices. I will tell [Prime Minister] Zurab [Zhvania] that if two ministers are ever again tempted to settle scores through press conferences, the doors are open to them and they can go wherever they want, do whatever they want," Saakashvili said.

Okruashvili on 4 January publicly blamed a number of serving and former defense officials for alleged fraud, saying they were responsible for the poor state of the country's armed forces.

Baramidze, who was defense minister until a government reshuffle three weeks ago, described the accusations as "absurd," saying they put the cohesiveness of the government at risk.

(Novosti Gruriya/Imedi TV)

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