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Audio Of Georgian Officials Discussing North Caucasus Disputed

Georgian Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili
Georgian Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili
TBILISI -- Audio has been posted on the Internet of alleged telephone conversations involving Georgian Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili and other senior officials about some initiatives involving Russia's North Caucasus region, RFE/RL's Georgian Service reported.

The conversations are alleged to have taken place in early December 2009. English and Russian subtitles are provided with the audio.

The discussions focus on a planned gathering of North Caucasus representatives in Tbilisi and the possibility of the Georgian parliament recognizing as genocide the slaughter of Circassians by Russian troops in the 19th century.

In one conversation, Deputy Interior Minister Giorgi Lortkipanidze asks the head of the Chechen community in Georgia, Khizri Aldamov, to select "serious, educated people" to attend the proposed gathering. Aldamov agrees to do so.

Aldamov has denied the conversation took place. He says he thinks it is a Russian fabrication, as do two Georgian analysts who were asked about the audio clips.

Interior Ministry spokesman Shota Khizanishvili declined to comment on the issue.