US urges calm ahead of Georgia mass opposition protests
Rose Revolution in Georgia   /  Photo: www.geocities.com

US urges calm ahead of Georgia mass opposition protests

9 Apr, 11:08 PM

The US has called on participants of an anti-presidential rally in Georgia scheduled for Thursday to remain reasonable and composed during the action, as Tbilisi prepares for mass public protests that many fear may turn violent.

“We call on the Georgian government and on everybody who is going to take part in the April 9 demonstration to do their best and ensure that the action is peaceful, and no violence brakes out,” State Department spokesman Robert Wood was quoted by Novosti Gruzia as saying.

“As Georgia’s friends, the United States stand by all of its citizens making an effort to build democracy,” he said.

The opposition accuses President Mikhail Saakashvili of an authoritarian streak that has stifled democratic reforms promised in the 2003 Rose Revolution that swept him to power in the former Soviet republic, Reuters reports.

War in August, when Russia crushed a Georgian assault on breakaway South Ossetia and sent tanks to within 40 km of Tbilisi, has emboldened critics who argue the president has made too many mistakes to stay in power until 2013.

Opposition leaders, their ranks swollen by defectors, are predicting a turnout of 150,000, and say protests will continue daily until Saakashvili, 41, resigns and calls elections.

Fire crews and hundreds of police in full riot gear entered the courtyard of the parliament in central Tbilisi overnight.

"We have set ourselves the goal of removing the incumbent illegitimate president from power and we will achieve this goal," opposition leader Salome Zurabishvili told reporters. "The rally will not disperse until Saakashvili resigns."

Analysts warn frustrations risk boiling over into unrest, Reuters adds.

The authorities also fear that the protesters may get violent. Last month the police arrested 10 men with suspected opposition links and released a secretly filmed video of them apparently buying weapons, allegedly plotting to overthrow the government.

The government says it suspects the hand of Russia. The opposition dismisses the allegations as a smear campaign.

Tags: Georgia, US, Mikhail Saakashvili

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