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    LUZHKOV TO ACT AS MEDIATOR IN ADZHARIA-GEORGIA DISPUTE

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    MOSCOW, March 16 (RIA Novosti) - Mayor Yuri Luzhkov of Moscow expressed his regret regarding the aggravation of the situation in Adzharia.

    "The initiative to aggravate the situation is not coming from Adzharia, it is coming from Tbilisi. I regret very much that this aggravation is occurring instead of sitting at the negotiating table," he told journalists in Batumi on Tuesday.

    Mr. Luzhkov arrived in Batumi from Trabzon, a Turkish city across the Turkish-Georgian border.

    The Moscow city government has not commented on Mr. Luzhkov's trip to Adzharia yet.

    "I am not a politician, I deal with the economy," said the deputy mayor of Moscow, Valery Shantsev, at a meeting on Tuesday.

    "I have no idea why the mayor went there; I learned about this trip from the television this morning," the plenipotentiary representative of the Moscow mayor in the Moscow Duma, Anatoly Petrov, said.

    Interior Minister of Adzharia Dzhemal Gogitidze who met Mr. Luzhkov at Sarpi, a border town, told journalists that Mr. Luzhkov would act as a mediator between Adzharia's leader Aslan Abashidze and Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili.

    Moscow and Adzharia maintain intensive relations, specifically economic ones. Mr. Luzhkov and Mr. Abashidze already met in Moscow on March 1. The first deputy prime minister of Adzharia, Badri Meladze, told RIA Novosti, "economic questions, electricity supplies and development of the transport system in particular, were decided at the meeting with the leadership of Moscow."

    Mr. Meladze said that Moscow's readiness to give several buses to Batumi had also been discussed at the meeting.

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