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Abkhaz Opposition Resists Ethnic Georgian 'Citizens'

SUKHUMI -- Opposition groups in Abkhazia are calling on the breakaway Georgian republic's leader to veto legislation that would grant some 50,000 ethnic Georgians Abkhaz "citizenship," RFE/RL's Georgian Service reports.

The People's Unity Forum of Abkhazia, the Arua war veterans movement, and the Akhatsa civic movement in a joint statement on August 4 called on Abkhaz President Sergei Bagapsh to reject an amendment to the citizenship law that would allow ethnic Georgians who reside in the southeastern Gali district to gain Abkhaz citizenship.

The amendment, passed by the Abkhaz parliament on July 31, would allow Georgians who returned to the Gali district before 2005 to be able to get "Abkhaz citizenship."

There are about 50,000 such residents in Gali, and granting them "citizenship" would alter the ethnic balance to make the republic roughly half ethnic Georgians and half ethnic Abkhaz.

Abkhazia has had de facto independence since a brief war with Georgia in 1992-93.

It was recognized as an independent country by Russia and Nicaragua last August after the Russian-Georgian war over South Ossetia.