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Georgian Parliament Requests FM's Resignation

Foreign Minister Salome Zourabichvili (file photo) Tbilisi, 18 October 2005 -- The Georgian parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee decided today to ask Prime Minister Zurab Noghaideli to dismiss Foreign Minister Salome Zourabichvili, the Caucasus Press reported.

They said that if Noghaideli refuses to do so, they will raise the issue of impeaching Zourabichvili. The deputy speaker of parliament, Mikheil Machavariani, said that several ambassadors have accused Zourabichvili -- a career French diplomat whom Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili persuaded early last year to join the Georgian government -- of protectionism, nepotism, ignoring subordinates' requests to contact them, and ordering ambassadors to report directly to her rather than to the parliament.
In another poll she was rated by 46 percent of respondents as the most popular of the government ministers.

The demand for Zourabichvili's resignation culminates a week of concerted criticism of her by parliament deputies. During a protracted discussion on 11-12 October, several parliament deputies lambasted Zourabichvili for her ministry's tardiness in submitting to the legislature the European Convention on National Minorities. Georgia pledged to ratify that convention when it joined the Council of Europe six years ago, and legislators duly did so on 13 October, Caucasus Press reported.

The Foreign Ministry rejected the personal criticism of Zourabichvili, who was visiting the U.K. and Ireland, as "groundless" and "unsubstantiated," and protested the "insulting" tone adopted during the debate by parliamentarian David Kirkitadze of the majority United National Movement (GEM), the Caucasus Press reported on 14 October. On 17 October, deputies representing the GEM took issue with the Foreign Ministry riposte and demanded that whichever official drafted it be reprimanded; speaker Nino Burdjanadze commented that even former Interior Minister Kakha Targamadze "never dared" to criticize the parliament in such terms.

This was not the first time the parliament has targeted Zourabichvili. In September 2004, Burdjanadze raised at a session of the parliament bureau Zourabichvili's imputed responsibility for the likelihood that Georgia would be stripped of its voting rights at the UN for its failure over many years to pay its membership dues (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 and 26 February 2003 and 21 September 2004).

The bureau on that occasion considered, but then abandoned, the idea of seeking Zourabichvili's impeachment. And in June, the opposition Conservative parliament faction demanded that Zourabichvili appear before parliament and explain to deputies why she receives a monthly salary of 15,000 euros ($17,900) as a French diplomat in addition to the 3,000 laris ($1,700) she receives from the Georgian government, the Caucasus Press reported on 11 June.

Elena Tevdoradze, who chairs the parliament committee on human rights and is one of Zourabichvili's most outspoken critics, denied on 17 October that personal animosity plays any role in deputies' repeated criticisms of Zourabichvili. In a poll conducted by the weekly "Kviris palitra" and summarized on 9 August by the Caucasus Press, 70 percent of the 500 respondents identified Zourabichvili as the most intelligent member of the government. In another poll two months earlier, she was rated by 46 percent of respondents as the most popular among the government ministers, the Caucasus Press reported on 6 June.

For more news about events in Georgia, see RFE/RL's webpage News and Features on Georgia

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