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Georgia's Anti-Saakashvili Protests Enter Third Day

Some 20,000 protesters are estimated to have gathered on April 10.
(RFE/RL) -- Street protests are continuing for a third consecutive day in Tbilisi, with opposition supporters calling on Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili to step down.

However, the number of protesters appeared to be significantly smaller than in previous days.

RFE/RL's Georgian Service correspondents in Tbilisi estimate that some 3,000 people have gathered outside the parliament building.

Rally organizers said demonstrators have also gathered in two other locations, blocking roads leading toward the offices of the president and state television.

This after some 60,000 protesters gathered on April 9 and 20,000 on April 10.

Saakashvili, who came to power after the 2003 Rose Revolution, has dismissed calls to resign, saying he frequently hears "such ultimatums." He instead called for talks with the opposition.

Salome Zurabishvili, the leader of Georgia's Way party and a former foreign minister, told journalists that the opposition is ready to negotiate with the president. But she said the opposition would still want Saakashvili to step down.

Zurabishvili also called for a televised debate between the president and opposition leaders.

"I'm sure Saakashvili doesn't want to resign. But this is what the people demand and we are prepared to talk to him about this demand in any form," Zurabishvili said.

"This should be done publicly because this is the people's demand. This is not a [monopoly] of any political party. This is a categorical demand of people and the only demand," she added.

Opposition Demands

Rally organizers have vowed to pursue their campaign until Saakashvili quits, but they called a one-day break for April 12, when Orthodox Christian Georgia marks the beginning of the week before Easter.

Opposition leaders have announced that demonstrators are planning to block government buildings on April 13 to paralyze government activity.

They accuse Saakashvili of mishandling the August 2008 conflict with Russia and becoming increasingly autocratic, and have demanded an early presidential election.

One protester in Tbilisi said people are unhappy with plummeting living standards in the country.

"We are here in order to give people an opportunity to work and to do good deeds, to improve living standards," he said.

In the meantime, government officials told Georgian media that Russian troops are on alert in Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia.

The officials said Russia had been deploying more troops in South Ossetia since protests began in Tbilisi last week.

RFE/RL's Georgian Service contributed to this report. with agency reporting