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Georgian Opposition Agrees To Talks On Stalemate

Opposition supporters rally near the parliament building in Tbilisi on May 7.
TBILISI (Reuters) -- Georgia's opposition has agreed to talks with the government to try to end the political stalemate in the former Soviet republic, two days after tensions spilled over into violence.

Opposition leaders said they would send representatives to meet parliament speaker David Bakradze in what they said should be preparation for a meeting with President Mikheil Saakashvili, the target of weeks of protests demanding his resignation.

A brief, bloodless mutiny at a tank base on May 5 and clashes between police and opposition protesters on May 6 have brought tensions to the boiling point in Georgia, where NATO military exercises have angered neighboring Russia.

It was not clear when the meeting with Bakradze might take place, but he had said earlier he was ready to sit down with the opposition immediately.

"This meeting should very quickly prepare a meeting with the president," Salome Zurabishvili, one of more than a dozen opposition leaders involved in the protests, told reporters.

Zurabishvili, a former foreign minister, said the opposition had cancelled plans to expand road blocks from central Tbilisi to the main east-west highway.

The opposition began daily street protests on April 9, demanding 41-year-old Saakashvili quit over his record on democracy and last year's war with Russia, when Moscow crushed a Georgian assault on breakaway South Ossetia.