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Mourners Bid Farewell To Georgia's Zhvania

Relatives and friends of Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania hold candles in Sameba church in Tbilisi 6 February 2005 -- Hundreds of mourners in Georgia today bid farewell to Zurab Zhvania, the prime minister found dead on 3 February from apparent carbon monoxide poisoning.

Ilia, Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia, led a memorial service at Tbilisi's Holy Trinity Cathedral ahead of a funeral later today in parliament.

U.S. Senator Richard Lugar, one of several foreign envoys attending, hailed Zhvania as a sober force for democratic change.

Other envoys included Russian Transport Minister Igor Levitin, and World Bank President James Wolfensohn.

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who has taken over Zhvania's duties until a new government is formed, declared 5 February and today days of national mourning.

Officials say the 41-year-old died from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by an improperly ventilated gas space heater in the Tbilisi apartment of a friend, who also died.

(AP/AFP/Caucasus Press)