Georgia conflict faces deadlock
Anti-Saakashvili protests in Tbilisi   /  Photo: Associated Press

Georgia conflict faces deadlock

11 Apr, 08:48 PM

Several dozen protesters continue blocking Tbilisi's main street early Saturday outside parliament, where large-scale protests were due to begin at 3:00 pm (1100 GMT).

Opposition leader Koba Davitashvili of the People's Party told the crowd at parliament that protesters would not budge in their demand for the president to leave office.

"There will be no dialogue with Saakashvili. Dialogue is possible on only one issue: his resignation," he said as quoted by the Agence France Press.

Despite the smaller numbers, protesters insisted the opposition movement was gaining momentum.

"Pressure is mounting on Saakashvili. Even if there are less of us at the rally today, the number of people is not the most important thing. Even if there are only 20 people here, he must listen to us," said protester Levan Chelidze, 45.

Protesters announced a campaign of civil disobedience Friday after Saakashvili offered talks with the opposition but rejected calls to step down.

Thousands of opposition supporters were expected to take to the streets of the Georgian capital on Saturday for a third day of protests demanding President Mikheil Saakashvili's resignation, Agence France Press reports.

Opposition leader Nino Burjanadze, a former speaker of parliament, said the protest movement was gaining momentum in its battle against Saakashvili.

"The protest feeling among the people is really very high," she said. "It's impossible to imagine how big the protest against this government is. Because this government touched the dignity of the people."

Saakashvili on Friday rejected the calls for his resignation but offered talks with opposition leaders. Some in the opposition said they were ready to sit down with the president.

"Nobody is against real dialogue," said Irakli Alasania, a former Georgian envoy to the United Nations who is considered a moderate voice in the opposition, told the Azeri news agency APA. "Dialogue with the president can only be conducted live, with public activists present," he announced yesterday stressing that Saakashvilli's resignation deadline should be the only issue to be discussed.

The European Union's special representative for the South Caucasus, Peter Semneby, told journalists in Tbilisi the EU could mediate between the opposition and the authorities, if both sides agree on dialogue, the RFE/RL Georgian service reported.

This week has seen the biggest protests against Saakashvili's rule since last August's war with Russia, with 60,000 rallying on Thursday and 25,000 on Friday.

Both the government and opposition have promised to keep the demonstrations peaceful, but tensions are running high and some fear the protests could turn violent.


Tags: Georgia, Tbilisi, antigovernment conflict