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Prepared by Diana Dundua
Friday, March 7
“Russian TV channel preparing documentary about Sofiko Chiaureli”

Akhali Taoba reports that Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev, the president and president-elect of Russia, are among the latest to send condolences to the family of famed Georgian actress Sofiko Chiaureli, who died at the age of 70 on March 2.

The Russian TV station Kultura filmed Chiaureli’s funeral yesterday for a documentary on her life.

According to Culture Ministry official Davit Okitashvili, Chiaureli’s family has received letters of condolences from around the world.

The Georgian film and theater actress was buried in the Didube pantheon near her late husband, Georgian sports commentator and actor Kote Makharadze.

“Man accused of raping a 12-year-old girl arrested in Poti”

A 22-year-old man stands accused of raping a 12-year-old girl in the western port city of Poti, Rezonansi reports.

Shalva Shalikashvili was arrested March 5. He says he is innocent, but the alleged victim and eyewitnesses say Shalikashvili, after being asked to take the girl home, instead took the girl to the beach and assaulted her.

A medical examination showed that the girl was raped.

If found guilty, Shalikashvili faces 15–20 years in prison.

“Protect the Georgian language!”

A coalition of student organizations has banded together as the 1978 Movement, Sakartvelos Respublika writes, to demand that the Ministry of Education and Science do more to protect the Georgian language.

The name comes from a year of demonstrations against a move to downgrade Georgian’s status from that of an official state language.

Movement leader Levan Chitadze says their priority is to protect the national language from “barbarisms,” or foreign loan words.

“We will prepare an official address toward the Ministry of Education and Science [asking them] to protect the [Georgian] language from the barbarisms which are now widely spread. The ministry should allot appropriate sums of money to create institutions that will take care of this,” Chitadze said.

“Georgia behind many states in tourism development”

Akhali Taoba reports on the Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report – 2008, published by the World Economic Forum, which ranks Georgia at 72nd out of 130 countries in a ranking of “conducive environments for developing the travel and tourism industry.”

Georgia places behind Turkey and Russia, but ahead of Azerbaijan and Armenia.

The newspaper notes that Georgia even manages to outpace Ukraine, Moldova and Kyrgyzstan.

The top five countries in the ranking are Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Australia and Spain.

“Georgian language is studied in Marneuli”

The OSCE is helping ethnic minorities integrate into civil society, Akhali Taoba writes.

OSCE representatives tell the paper 73 Kvemo Kartli residents of an ethnic minority, mainly Azeri, are improving their Georgian with an OSCE-sponsored program.

They also take computer classes and lectures on civil issues, all in the town of Marneuli.

The project is implemented by a local NGO, the Union of Azeri Women in Georgia.

“Better knowledge of the Georgian language will help local youths find better jobs,” said the NGO’s chairwoman, Leila Suleimanova.

“Georgian businessmen to hold meetings in Belarus”

The Georgian Chamber of Industry and Commerce is sending a delegation of Georgian businessmen to the Belarusian capital of Minsk from April 1–3, Rezonansi reports.

Headed by the chamber’s chairman, Jemal Inaishvili, the delegation will look to deepen relations between the Georgian and Belarusian business communities.