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Zhvania Associate Found Dead Of Apparent Suicide

5 February 2005 -- Police in Georgia today reported the apparent suicide of a political associate of Zurab Zhvania, the country's prime minister who was found dead this week of alleged gas poisoning.

Georgy Khelashvili, a 32-year-old member of the presidential commission on pardons, was found dead at his home last night of a gunshot wound.

A Tbilisi police official, Irakli Pirkhalala, said Khelashvili shot himself with a hunting rifle he had borrowed from a neighbor. He also left a note to his family asking for forgiveness.

Khelashvili was a member of the United Democrats political bloc led by Zhvania. The prime minister was found dead on 3 February in a Tbilisi apartment. Officials yesterday said the official cause of death was carbon monoxide poisoning caused by a faulty space heater.

Foreign delegations today began arriving in the Georgian capital for Zhvania's funeral tomorrow.

(AP/ITAR-TASS/Caucasus Press)