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    BAKU ANXIOUS ABOUT DEVELOPMENTS IN ADZHARIA

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    BAKU, March 16, 2004. (RIA Novosti) - The developments in Georgia may start a new wave of separatism in the South Caucasus, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Vilayat Guliyev told journalists in Baku on Tuesday.

    Recently, the situation in Adzharia, an autonomous republic in Georgia, has been significantly aggravated. After Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili was blocked from entering Adzharia, Tbilisi delivered an ultimatum to the Adzharian government.

    Then Tbilisi imposed a blockade on Adzharia. It closed Adzharia's air space, roads and railways and it blocked the port of Batumi.

    Neither Tbilisi nor Batumi has asked Azerbaijan to act as a mediator in the conflict, Mr. Guliyev pointed out. Baku believes that the conflict is "a domestic affair and there is no need for third countries to interfere," he emphasized.

    "We hope that leadership of Georgia and Adzharia will demonstrate wisdom and sense in the current situation," Mr. Guliyev said. Baku advocates "settling the problem in the relations between Georgia and Adzharia as soon as possible and peacefully," he pointed out. "We (Azerbaijan) advocate preserving stability in the South Caucasus and solving all problems peacefully," the foreign minister explained. "The Georgian leadership has enough political experience to settle such problems. We (Azerbaijan) are against any confrontation, against civil war."

    Mr. Guliyev did not rule out that the situation in Georgia might "affect construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (Azerbaijan - Georgia - Turkey) oil pipeline."

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