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    ADZHARIAN LEADER ABASHIDZE CANNOT RETURN TO GEORGIA

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    MOSCOW, March 14 (RIA Novosti). Aslan Abashidze, the leader of Adzharia (an autonomous republic of Georgia), confirmed the news that he is prevented from returning to Georgia. "Airports, including in Tbilisi, have been closed," he said at a press conference in Moscow. He said he had sent a letter to Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili, in which he expressed the hope that the Batumi-Tbilisi crisis would be settled. "I am not sure the result will be positive," said Abashidze.

    "We have learned long ago that before he came to power he [Saakashvili] and a non-governmental organisation had a plan of invading the Adzharian autonomous republic and overthrowing its leadership," said the Adzharian leader. "I am talking facts of which I am certain." In his words, the existence of such plans was confirmed to him off record by a diplomat.

    All flights to Georgia have been cancelled to prevent the return of Aslan Abashidze, who planned to leave Moscow for Batumi today. His team believes that the situation around Adzharia was rapidly deteriorating in the past few hours.

    The Central Air Traffic Control of the State Civil Aviation Service neither confirmed nor refuted information about the closure of the air corridor for Abashidze's plane. "You should address your question to the Georgian authorities; we will not comment on it," said the air controller on duty.

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