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    CONFLICT BETWEEN GEORGIA'S JUSTICE MINISTRY AND ITERA GROUP

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    TBILISI/MOSCOW, February 3 (RIA Novosti) - Officials from Georgia's Ministry of Justice seized property from Azot, a Russian joint stock company whose controlling block of shares (90%) is owned by the Itera international group of companies (an independent gas-transportation firm in which Russia is the principal shareholder), Georgia's Ministry of Justice told RIA Novosti on Tuesday.

    Goods for sale and 12 cars were seized at the Azot warehouse.

    A source in the Justice Ministry said the measures were taken because of Azot's outstanding debt of 80,000 laris (approximately $40,000) to the Gosudarstvennaya Elektrosistema (State Electricity System) energy company of Georgia.

    According to the source, police executed a 2002 Rustavi court judgement that requires Azot to pay Gosudarstvennaya Elektrosistema 900,000 laris. Azot has decreased its debt to the energy company by nearly 90% since that time.

    The Azot management intends to dispute the actions of the Justice Ministry's police in the Tbilisi district court.

    "We believe that the actions of police are unlawful," Azot General Director Andrei Parshutin told journalists. "Azot is currently protected by the 'Law On Bankruptcy,' and a program of the plant's rehabilitation, during which no lawsuits in favor of a debtor may be filed against us, is being implemented." Itera is taking actions to settle the situation.

    A source in Itera said that the Georgian consumers' debt to the international group for supplied gas since 1996 is about $109 million.

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