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    BATUMI UNIVERSITY STUDENTS ON HUNGER STRIKE DEMANDING PEACEFUL SETTLEMENT WITH TBILISI

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    TBILISI, March 15, 2004. (RIA Novosti) -- On Monday a small group of students and professors from the Tbilisi State University have continued the hunger strike begun earlier in front of the university building in the capital of the Adzharian autonomy.

    The Novosti-Georgia news agency reports that hunger strikers invite Tbilisi and Batumi to "begin a political dialogue and resolve all the problems in the peaceful way". The academic process in the university has been wrecked.

    The students, numbering ten, say they are "critical with regard to the activities of the head of Adzharia." At the same time, they "demand from the centre and the autonomy to prevent the escalation of opposition, which may lead to grave consequences for Georgia." On Monday supporters of Aslan Abashidze, head of the Adzharian autonomy, are arriving to Batumi from different parts of Adzharia for a meeting of support for Mr. Abashidze. From 600 to 700 of his supporters are found on Adzharia's administrative border on the Choloki river. Some of them are armed.

    Motor traffic has been stopped. Those making to Adzharia from other parts of the country have to get out of their cars and walk to cross the border.

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