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The Week in Brief

Friday, March 7
Moscow is officially lifting its economic sanctions against breakaway Abkhazia, leaving the 1996 treaty which imposed the trade ban [see article]. Georgia’s foreign minister slammed the decision as ‘immoral, illegal and very dangerous.’

The moderate Republicans split with opposition coalition, portraying the move as an electoral strategy to win more seats in parliament. It may be, but there may also have been disagreements over campaign tactics and the allocations of spots on the coalition’s joint ticket.

Tbilisi is walking away from the quadripartite Joint Control Commission format for South Ossetian conflict talks. Georgia says the format pits three—South Ossetia, North Ossetia and Moscow—against one, and proposes a new format which leaves out Vladikavkaz and brings in the EU and the OSCE.

The eight-party opposition coalition is demanding a repeat of the January 5 presidential election, claiming the OSCE/ODIHR final report on the poll backs up allegations of vote rigging. The final report roughly hews to the initial verdict, saying the election was the ‘first genuinely competitive post-independence election’ but suffered from ‘shortcomings’ including bad or very bad vote tallying in nearly a quarter of precincts observed.

The opposition is up in arms over a government proposal to make half of the next 150-member parliament directly elected [see article]. Opposition parliamentarians say the new system is unfair and came as a surprise; ruling party members say the opposition squandered a chance to pass their preferred system.

Georgian film and theater actress Sofiko Chiaureli died at the age of 70 after a long illness. Heads of state sent condolences for the loss of the acclaimed actress.

After a bomb rigged into a television set killed two, officials in breakaway South Ossetia, fearful of other hidden explosives, warned residents not to buy cars from Georgians. Especially the Mitsubishi Pajero, which they said should be viewed with suspicion.