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Abkhaz PM Survives Assassination Attempt

1 March 2005 -- The government in Georgia's separatist Abkhazia region says Prime Minister Aleksander Ankvab has survived an assassination attempt.

Interior Minister Otar Khetsia said unidentified gunmen opened fire on Ankvab's motorcade late yesterday while he was traveling toward the prime minister's residence in Gudauta, north of the capital Sukhumi.

Khetsia said the gunmen fled after putting 11 bullet holes in the prime minister's car. But he said Ankvab was traveling in his deputy's identical car at the front of the motorcade and was unharmed.

Corruption Fight

The Abkhaz government condemned the attack in a press release today as an attempt to sabotage reforms announced by the new leadership and to prevent the crackdown Ankvab has pledged on corruption and economic crime.

The president of the unrecognized Republic of Abkhazia, Sergei Bagapsh, today said he rejects the possibility of political factors being behind the assassination attempt.

Bagapsh said he thinks there are criminal factors behind the attempt on Ankvab's life.

The president has convened an emergency meeting today with Interior Ministry officials, Caucasus Press reported.

The new Abkhaz cabinet is led by Ankvab and was announced on 24 February.