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    STATE OF EMERGENCY INTRODUCED IN ADZHARIA

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    BATUMI, March 15, 2004. (RIA Novosti) -- Aslan Abashidze, head of the Adzharian autonomous republic of Georgia, told Russian journalists in Batumi on Monday that the state of emergency and curfew were introduced in the republic. Mr. Abashidze avoided the question about possible general mobilisation, saying, "I do not keep secret the fact that the entire population of the republic is ready to protect their land."

    He believes that Mr. Saakashvili's actions can disrupt stability and political balance, which Georgia had maintained for 13 years. "Personal ambitions must not be allowed to stand above the interests of the state," he said.

    According to Mr. Abashidze, election campaigning by the opposition is prohibited in Batumi. "We have warned them and will take proper measures" if they neglect the order, said the Adzharian leader. He thinks the attempt of Saakashvili to grasp control in the republic by means of elections is not legitimate. He recalled that under the current Georgian legislation, the heads of executive power are not allowed to hold election propaganda. Besides, Abashidze sees no reason for using troops or other security departments, which "accompany" Saakashvili in his attempt to get into Adzharia, for such work.

    Referring to the examples of the other two Georgian autonomous republics, Abashidze explained that South Ossetia and Abkhazia were forced onto the road of separatism by shortsighted Tbilisi politicians. He did not rule out the possible growth of separatist sentiments in Adzharia because of the recent actions of President Saakashvili.

    In particular, the Adzharian leader fears unrest, which, he thinks, is possible in the autonomous republic if Saakashvili's supporters enter it.

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