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The News in Brief

Tuesday, March 16
Georgia mafia suspects arrested in six countries

Sixty-nine suspected Georgian mafia members have been arrested in a co-ordinated operation across Europe. Twenty-four were detained in Spain, mainly in Barcelona and Valencia, as part of Operation Java, Spanish police said.

The arrests are the result of a year-long investigation initiated by Spanish police. The other arrests took place in Austria, Germany, Switzerland, France and Italy.

Those arrested are suspected members of a Georgian mafia network accused of a whole list of crimes, including money laundering, extortion, drug trafficking and possessing weapons, says the BBC's Sarah Rainsford in Madrid. Two years ago, a police operation in Spain led to the arrest of 20 suspected members of the Russian mafia, who had been living on the island of Majorca.

Monday's Spanish operation was co-ordinated by the National High Court and carried out by the central drugs and organised crime unit and other regional security forces.

Western Georgia significantly damaged by torrential rain

The Ministry of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources has informed InterpressNews that a landslide in the village of Ghvirishi in the Tsageri region has killed local resident Giorgi Tkabladze.

The landslide struck the Oni-Ambrolauri motorway and traffic movement is restricted. Minister of Environmental Protection and Natural Recourses Goga Khachidze has visited the region to assess the situation.

A special commission staffed with geologists which will work round the clock has been set up. The Ministry of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources is also working in an emergency regime.

Meteorologists predict unstable weather. They say it will clear up from March 19.

New project launched by Ministry of Education and Association of Private Schools

The Ministry of Education and Science and the Association of Private Schools will conduct a new project from the next academic year. The Minister announced this during his visit to private school-lyceum Mtsignobartukhutsesi.

From the next academic year, with the Ministry's support, Georgian private schools will give talented schoolchildren from vulnerable families an opportunity to study at private schools, receive a high quality education and use modern school infrastructure without paying tuition fees. The winners of the National School Olympiad can also study at private schools if they wish. "It is important to encourage talented schoolchildren", said Minister Dimitri Shashkin.

Under the new project studying at private schools will become a privilege for the talented and most motivated schoolchildren as well as one part of society. The schools will establish their principles of selection and the number of schoolchildren who enter in this way themselves. The Georgian Government and Ministry of Education and Science will also support the development of private schools.

Interior Minister concludes Italian visit

Minister of the Interior of Georgia Vano Merabishvili has wrapped up his official visit to Italy, where he held meetings with his Italian counterpart. The visit had been planned as part of the intensive programme of cooperation between the Georgian and Italian Governments.

Vano Merabishvili and Roberto Maroni signed a new bilateral agreement on `Cooperation in Fighting Organised Crime`, which will reinforce collaboration to combat organised crime, promote investigations and open criminal cases in instances of human trafficking, money laundering, illegal migration and hijacking.

The agreement also includes an exchange of information between the sides. The Georgian and Italian Ministers also discussed training for police experts.
(Rustavi 2)

Day of Georgian Artillery commemorated at Defence Ministry

The Day of Georgian Artillery was commemorated at the Defence Ministry on 15 March. The solemn event was held at the Artillery Brigade headquarters. Gunners were awarded honours by the leaders of the Joint Staff, who also laid a wreath at the memorial to dead heroes. The family members of those who died in war and war veterans were given symbolic presents.

The ceremony was attended by high ranking officials of the MOD and Joint Staff. Military attaches of the foreign countries were invited.

The day of Georgian Artillery has been observed since 1993.

Legal Abkhazian Government has new Cabinet member

The legal Abkhazian Government has a new Minister of Healthcare. Beso Lagvilava has replaced Dalila Khorava in this position. The previous Minister was dismissed for misappropriation of state funds and misuse of authority.

The Abkhazian legal Government says it will try to regain the lost funds. Head of the Government Giorgi Baramia introduced the new Minister to his staff today.
(Rustavi 2)