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Expert Backs Official Version Of Zhvania's Death

5 February 2005 -- Georgia's Justice Ministry yesterday said results of the autopsy performed on late Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania confirmed he died of gas poisoning.

Levan Samkharauli, who heads Georgia's National Forensic Examinations Bureau, told reporters in Tbilisi that Zhvania, whose body was found yesterday in the apartment of a friend identified as Raul Yusupov, died after inhaling carbon monoxide. He said the concentration of carboxylhemoglobin -- formed when carbon monoxide combines with hemoglobin, blocking the stream of oxygen to the blood -- was lethal.

"It was established that the concentration of carboxylhemoglobin in Zurab Zhvania's blood was 60.6 percent," Samkharauli said. "In Raul Yusupov's blood, that concentration was 73.9 percent. Therefore, the deaths were certainly caused by carbon monoxide intoxication."

Authorities say the deaths of Zhvania and Yusupov were caused by a faulty gas heater.

But many in Georgia doubt the official version and demand an independent investigation.

Samkharauli yesterday confirmed that samples of Zhvania's blood had been sent to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation for a second assessment. He said the results would be made available in several weeks.

Zhvania's funeral will take place on 6 February at the Holy Trinity Church in Tbilisi.

(imedi tv/Civil Georgia/Novosti-gruziya)