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Georgia: Demonstrators Gather In Tbilisi, Urge President To Resign

Tbilisi, 14 November 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Thousands of demonstrators have gathered in the Georgian capital Tbilisi today, demanding that President Eduard Shevardnadze (pictured) resign. Shevardnadze appeared on national television earlier today, appealing for calm and warning the demonstrations that have continued since parliamentary elections on 2 November could lead the country to "bad things."

Opposition leader Mikhail Saakashvili gave Shevardnadze an ultimatum, calling on him to come out and speak to the crowd. When the president failed to do so, the demonstrators began moving down the Georgian capital's main avenue toward the presidential office.

Estimates of the crowd range from several thousand to up to 20,000. Some carried signs calling on Shevardnadze to step down immediately.

Saakashvili said the demonstrators will not storm any government buildings. Police and Interior Ministry troops said they will allow the protesters to hold a peaceful rally but will not tolerate any violence.

In Moscow, the Kremlin's press service says Russian President Vladimir Putin and Shevardnadze discussed the ongoing political crisis in Georgia today by telephone.

The contents of the conversation were not made public. It came as Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov appealed for calm and called on the Georgian leadership to find a "constitutional solution" to the impasse over this month's parliamentary elections.

Ivanov spoke after face-to-face talks with Georgian regional leader Aslan Abashidze, who has sided with Shevardnadze in the crisis.