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The News in Brief

Monday, January 28

CEC reject Sarishvili’s referendum

The Central Election Commission (CEC) has rejected Imedi party leader Irina Sarishvili’s request to hold a referendum on Georgia taking a stance of neutrality in its foreign policy.

It was not immediately clear on what grounds the CEC rejected her request.

Sarishvili applied to the CEC last week, requesting that the question “Do you think Georgia should be a neutral state?” be put to the public.

At the presidential election on January 5, voters were asked whether they were in favor of Georgia pursuing NATO membership.

“We are against Georgia's integration into any political-military alliance, no matter whether it is NATO or the CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States]. Considering the geopolitical situation of our country, any other orientation will be destructive for Georgia and its territorial unity,” Sarishvili said.

She added that despite the CEC refusal, she will gather 200 000 signatures and appeal to parliament to hold the referendum. (Prime News)

Okruashvili may be admitted to hospital

Former defense minister Irakli Okruashvili may be admitted to hospital after his health deteriorated due to a hunger strike in protest of the recent presidential election, according to attorney Eka Beselia.

The former minister is currently in custody in France awaiting an extradition hearing slated for January 30. Okruashvili was first arrested in Georgia on September 27—two days after he launched a political opposition party —and charged with corruption stemming from his time as defense minister, before being released on bail.

He flew to Germany on November 1, the day before a planned mass anti-government protest in Tbilisi and was transferred to France on January 9 where his asylum application is being considered. (Prime News)

Selection concert for Eurovision scheduled for March

The selection concert for the 2008 Eurovision Song Contest will be held at the Tbilisi Sports Palace on March 01.

A vote to determine the order of appearance of contenders was held on the state-owned public broadcaster on January 25.

Also on January 25 a website for the event was launched: (Prime News)

Student refugees from Abkhazia and South Ossetia to holiday in Upper Abkhazia

Student refugees from Abkhazia and South Ossetia will take a ten-day holiday in Upper Abkhazia, the Tbilisi-controlled part of breakaway Abkhazia, at the beginning of February.

The event is organized by the education ministry of the Tbilisi-backed Abkhaz government-in-exile; education minister Alexander Aplakov said the students will be taught to ski. (Prime News)

Judo world cup begins in Tbilisi

The Judo World Championship began in Tbilisi on January 26. Over 300 athletes from 42 countries—including 28 from Georgia—were scheduled to participate.

Athletes competed for medals in seven weight categories. It was organized by the Georgian Judo Federation. (Black Sea Press)

Water supply problems in South Ossetia

The Georgian–South Ossetian conflict zone continues to experience water supply problems.

The South Ossetian de facto authorities have shut off the main Edisi-Tskhinvali water pipeline in Java without warning, causing water not to reach Georgian and Ossetian villages in the Great Liakhvi gorge, a Black Sea Press correspondent in Shida Kartli reports.

According to the de facto separatist authorities, the water was shut off due to rehabilitation work. Tskhinvali is reportedly also without water and de facto authorities blame Dmitri Sanakoyev, head of the Tbilisi-backed provisional administration of South Ossetia, for water problems.

A monitoring group comprising Georgian and South Ossetian representatives, Russian peacekeeping forces and OSCE observers are due to make a statement on the situation soon. (Black Sea Press)