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Georgia: Diplomat Involved In Crash To Stay In U.S.

Washington, 10 January 1997 (RFE/RL) - Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze has ordered a diplomat involved in a deadly car crash to remain in the United States until an investigation is completed.

The directive countermanded a diplomatic note delivered to the U.S. Embassy in Georgia yesterday. That note said 35-year-old Gueorgui Makharadze was being recalled home.

Washington has asked Georgia to waive diplomatic immunity for the envoy, who could face charges ranging from negligent homicide to second degree murder.

Shevardnadze said in a statement today: "Makharadze must remain in the United States until the investigation is completed and the legal procedures are finished, and until a single decision is reached between the governments of the two countries."

Makharadze was involved in a five-car crash last Friday that killed a 16-year-old girl.

Makharadze was not given a blood-alcohol tests because of his diplomatic status. Police said skid marks and witness accounts indicated his car had been traveling at a high speed.

At the Georgian embassy in Washington, spokesman Misha Siamashvili told RFE/RL earlier today that the embassy was preparing a statement.

Yesterday, the U.S. State Department said the United States would formally ask Georgia to lift Makharadze's diplomatic immunity. A law firm in Washington says it has been hired by Makharadze to represent his interests.

The U.S. Attorney's office for Washington, which is responsible for criminal cases, says it may ask a grand jury to charge Makharadze with either negligent homicide or second-degree murder.