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Georgian PM Criticizes Saakashvili, Pledges To Restore Russian Relations

Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili assured journalists that his government will continue the pro-Europe foreign policy.
Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili assured journalists that his government will continue the pro-Europe foreign policy.
Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili has accused President Mikheil Saakashvili of seeking to destabilize the country.

At a news conference in Tbilisi on February 5 to mark his first 100 days in office, Ivanishvili said Saakashvili's United National Movement party "seeks to provoke civil confrontation."

Ivanishvili added that he would not be present in parliament on February 8 when Saakashvili is going to deliver his annual address to the Georgian deputies.

Ivanishvili told journalists that he would be absent because he didn't want to listen to Saakashvili's lies.

"We control the situation, and nobody in Georgia will be able to stir it up again. Believe me, Saakashvili's era is over in Georgia, the era of lies is over in Georgia," he said. "And I ask you very much to calm down and restore our mental balance."

Reaching Out To Russia

Ivanishvili also said that Georgia will restore relations with Russia, marred by the short war between the two countries over Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia in August 2008.

"We have every opportunity to settle relations with our big neighbor. It will not happen quickly, I have to say it again. We are aware of it, as it was clear in the past as well, but we should try our utmost to do it as quickly as possible," Ivanishvili said.

"Our hope is growing that we will be able to restore both our territorial integrity and friendly relations with Russia."

Following the conflict, Moscow recognized the separatist-led Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Georgia, in protest, cut all diplomatic ties with Moscow and quit the Commonwealth of Independent States that unites several former Soviet republics.

Ivanishvili said that his government will do everything to regain control over its "lost" territories.

"As for those big steps forward, which you all expect regarding changes in the situation in Abkhazia and South Ossetia and the change in the attitude of the Abkhaz and Ossetian population [toward us], this will take more time, but a good beginning makes a good ending" he said.

Looking West

Last month, Saakashvili attacked Russia and Ivanishvili in his address to the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly. Saakashvili accused Moscow of not living up to international commitments concerning Georgia's two breakaway regions and said the Russian military build-up there had continued.

During his speech, the Georgian president, whose United National Movement lost the parliamentary elections last year to a coalition led by Ivanishvili, also questioned the foreign policy of Ivanishvili's cabinet by accusing it of giving up Georgia's NATO aspirations.

Last week, Saakashvili told journalists in Tbilisi that Georgia's constitution must document the country's commitment to its pro-Western foreign policy.

Ivanishvili assured journalists on February 5 that his government will continue the pro-Europe foreign policy.

"How could you imagine change of [Georgia's political] course? How could we give up [our aspirations regarding] Europe and the European space? That is impossible to imagine. Why should we add [our European course] to the constitution? We have always been moving toward Europe and we should make our dream come true," Ivanishvili said.

"We must become a worthy country among worthy countries. And of course, in terms of defense, [Georgia] has no alternatives to NATO. We cannot change that course."

With reporting by Reuters, Novosti-Gruzia, Interfax, and RFE/RL's Georgian Service
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