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Georgia: U.S. Says Diplomat 'Ought To Stand Trial'

Washington, 7 January 1997 (RFE/RL) -- The State Department says a Georgian diplomat accused of causing a fatal traffic accident in Washington should have his diplomatic protection removed and should stand trial for "a very, very serious crime."

However, spokesman Nicholas Burns also concedes it is more likely the Georgian government in Tbilisi will recall the diplomat -- economics and commerce minister Georgi Makharadze.

The envoy has not been charged with a crime. However, Washington police say he was driving a car early Saturday that crashed into another car. The second car then landed on a third vehicle, killing a 16-year-old girl sitting inside. The police contend Makharadze had been drinking and speeding. But, because he is protected by diplomatic immunity, Makharadze did not have to submit to police tests for intoxication.

Burns says the United States is waiting for Washington, D.C., authorities to decide whether to file criminal charges before asking Georgia to lift the immunity that protects diplomats from arrest. Burns said today the Georgian government has cooperated fully with the United States.

However, Burns said that "frankly ... it's more likely that the Georgian government will probably elect to send him home or have him expelled. And that's most unfortunate."