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Georgia: Acting President Says Country Facing 'Economic Collapse'

Tbilisi, 25 November 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Georgia's acting president, Nino Burdjanadze (pictured), said today that the country must take "radical measures" because it is facing "economic collapse." Burdjanadze, who took control of the country after Eduard Shevardnadze resigned as president on 23 November, told administration officials that Georgia's economic situation is "even worse than we thought."

"The budget is absolutely empty, I can say. We have zero in the state budget, and we are not able to pay pensions, we are not able to pay salaries, we are not able to pay anything to the army, to the police. So we need just to mobilize all resources which could be mobilized, and of course we will ask for some help and assistance from our friends from the international community," Burdjanadze said.

Georgia's parliament is meeting today to set a date for a presidential election to choose a successor to Shevardnadze. He quit amid mass public protests over the 2 November parliamentary elections that were marred by reports of major fraud.

Georgia's Supreme Court today declared the 2 November vote invalid. The parliament elected in 1999 is the body meeting today.

In related news, a second Georgian minister close to Shevardnadze has resigned. The resignation today of Minister of State Avtandil Djorbenadze comes one day after Interior Minister Koba Narchemashvili, another Shevardnadze ally, quit his post.

Djorbenadze's departure had been expected after Nino Burdjanadze said he was responsible for the country's desperate economic situation. Burdjanadze today said there is no money in the state coffers.