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The News in Brief

Monday, November 17
Georgia should not break off diplomatic relations with Russia – Shevardnadze

Georgia should not break off diplomatic relations with Russia even after the events in August in South Ossetia, former President of Georgia and Foreign Minister of the USSR Eduard Shevardadze has stated in the interview with TV channel Euronews.

“Russia is our largest neighbour. It possesses colossal natural resources. To find common language with Russia after everything that has happened it is necessary to have outstanding political and diplomatic skills. If I were the President, I would not have broken off diplomatic relations,” Shevardnadze said.

While commenting on the situation the Government of Mikheil Saakashvili created in August 2008, Shevardnadze noted that Georgia “gave Russia occasion” to carry out a military operation against it. “The United States affirms that it did not advise Tbilisi to enter Tskhinvali. Maybe Georgia would not otherwise have been occupied, but we gave the occasion to Russia. As far as I know there were no Russian troops (during the first week of August) in Tskhinvali or the Roki Tunnel, connecting Georgia with the North Caucasus”, the ex-President of Georgia stressed.

According to Shevardnadze, the issue of Georgia’s accession to NATO was raised for the first time during his Presidency when “19 of the most experienced (American) specialists were sent to Georgia.” “I was the first who gave guarantees to Vladimir Putin and promised that despite the assistance of the USA in creating a capable Georgian Army, not one American military base would be placed on Georgian soil,” the former leader of Georgia stressed.

Shevardnadze held the post of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the USSR from 1985-1991 and was a member of the Political Bureau of the USSR. In 1992 he became President of independent Georgia. On November 23, 2003, the opposition forced him to resign as President.
(Black Sea Press)

Representatives of Senate of Belgium want to block Georgia’s accession to NATO

The Deputy Chairman of the Commission on Foreign Affairs of the Senate of Belgium, Josi Dubei, has stated that he and some of his coleagues in the Upper Chamber of the Federal Parliament of the country intend to block Georgia’s accession to NATO, RIA Novosti informs. Josi Dubei announced this on Thursday in Brussels at a meeting with a delegation from the self-proclaimed Republic of South Ossetia.

“We cannot allow (Georgia to be a member of NATO) because while Saakashvili is Head of State we risk being on the verge of war with Russia. After Georgia joins NATO there will be an obligation to defend it in the case of military conflict,” Dubei stressed.

The Belgian Senator said that he intended to make a official inquiry to the Government of Belgium at the session of the Senate in December, asking it to clarify its position concerning the possible NATO membership of Georgia. Dubei said that the tenth Article of the North Atlantic Treaty stated that a decision on the accession to NATO of a new member could only be made unanimously.

Senator Dubei and his colleague Christine Defrasigne, with support of the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Belgium and the Council of the Federation of Russia, visited South Ossetia recently.
(Black Sea Press)

Labour Party of Georgia accuses “United Telecom” of robbing the population

The Labour Party of Georgia has accused telecommunications company United Telecom, the National Communications Commission and the authorities of robbing the population.

“The National Communications Commission has established an extremely high price for a minute of talk – 0.06 Lari (approximately $0.036). As a result most of the population cannot pay its phone bills and is left without a telephone. 70% of the country is on the verge of poverty,” representative of the party Leila Gaprindashvili stated at a rally in front of one of the Tbilisi branches of United Telecom.

Director of the branch Levan Karazanashvili said that the Labour Party’s statements were groundless. “Phone conversations between subscribers of United Telecom, over 400,00 people, are free of charge. Payment is required for calls to Akhali Kselebi subscribers (170 thousand), and the tariff is 6 tetri. United Telecom provides invalids, blind persons and the isolated with great privileges,” Karazanashvili stated.
(Black Sea Press)

United Opposition claims the upcoming amnesty is another farce

The United Opposition believes that the Georgian authorities are trying to pretend they are undertaking a large scale amnesty, but actually releasing a minimal number of prisoners. A leader of the United Opposition, Secretary General of the Movement for United Georgia Ekaterine Beselia, stated this at a news conference on November 14.

“The amnesty bill was passed by Parliament today at its first reading. Regrettably, our expectations have not been met. The amnesty concerns people convicted under various Articles of the Criminal Code, and most of the Articles included in the list will not lead to the release of the most deserving cases or any large scale releases. Thus, we call on the authorities to consider the opposition’s opinion before it is too late, to allow the law on amnesty to justify itself,” Beselia said.

Beselia has once again called on the Georgian authorities to include in the list about 20 Articles proposed by the United Opposition, especially those that concern political prisoners. She says that “Parliament’s Anti-Crisis Commission, which has been elaborating the amnesty bill, has tried to artificially increase the number of Articles included without releasing those unjustly convicted.”

The Commission is led by former United Opposition activist Gia Tortladze. Beselia blamed Tortladze for the problem, saying that only 4-5 Articles out of the 22, added to the initial version of the amnesty bill, were valid. Thus, according to Beselia, there will be fewer people amnestied than the lawmakers claim now.

The release of political prisoners was one of the major demands put forward by the United Opposition this November 7. If the authorities fail to meet this demand, the United Opposition promises to launch large-scale protest rallies throughout the country.

The amnesty bill will concern 12,000 individuals, including 7,000 currently in pre-trial detention and 5,000 with suspended sentences. The amnesty will be announced on November 23, the fifth anniversary of the Rose Revolution.
(Black Sea Press)