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Georgian Opposition Protests Removal Of World War II Memorial

The war memorial in Kutaisi
KUTAISI, Georgia -- Georgian opposition parties are protesting a government decision to take down a huge World War II memorial complex in the city of Kutaisi, RFE/RL's Georgian Service reports.

Opposition leaders and activists gathered today at the memorial complex, which was built in Soviet times to commemorate the victims and veterans of World War II.

The Georgian government said the memorial complex is being removed to make room for a new building that will host sessions of the national parliament, an idea that Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili is promoting.

Protesters said the decision to remove the complex was made without taking into account "the opinions of the local citizens" and the creator of the monumnet, prominent sculptor Merab Berdzenishvili.

Representatives from the opposition Democratic Movement -- A United Georgia, For a Fair Georgia, and The Alliance for Georgia -- took part in the demonstration.

Officials began taking down the monument complex earlier this week and are due to finish on December 28, which is Saakashvili's birthday.