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    GEORGIAN LAUNCHES PATROL ADZHARIAN WATERS

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    TBILISI, March 16, 2004. (RIA Novosti) - In the early hours of March 16, Georgia's coastal guard launches began patrolling the Adzharian section of the Georgian territorial waters in the Black Sea, the Novosti-Georgia news agency reported on Tuesday with reference to the press service of the Georgian interior ministry.

    The launch crews have been instructed to follow all the ships heading for Batumi ports and the Poti port (Western Georgia).

    Early on Tuesday, Head of the Anti-Crisis Centre for Adzharia and Prime Minister of Georgia Zurab Zhvania, together with Interior Minister Georgy Baramidze met the personnel of the coastal guard responsible for the Adzharian section of Georgia's maritime border and checked the guard of the Batumi water area.

    "Officers and servicemen of the coastal guard are fulfilling an important mission. They are to oversee the implementation of the limitations and control imposed by the Georgian president in regard to the Adzharian leadership," Zurab Zhvania told newsmen.

    "Our servicemen are capable to fulfil this mission," Chairman of the Border Guard Department of the Georgian Interior Ministry Badri Bitsadze told reporters.

    The Georgian president's decision to close the Batumi port, Batumi airport and customs in Sarpi on the Georgian-Turkish border was approved by the Georgian government's emergency session held in Poti on March 15.

    Accounts of the Adzharian government members have also been frozen, and Georgia's banks have annulled licences of all banks operating in Adzharia.

    "Nearly all the financial sources of the autonomy's leadership have been thwarted. I'm obliged to take these measures so that all could understand that Georgia will not put up with limitations of its sovereignty on behalf of any territorial entity," President Mikhail Saakashvili told reporters.

    He also remarked that in the past years Georgia's central budget received no taxes and contributions from the Batumi port and the Sarpi (border with Turkey) customs to the sum of $200-300 million annually.

    "Mr. Shevardnadze put up with this situation but I'm not going to," said Mr. Saakashvili.

    On March 14, a group of armed people at the post near the Choloki river, on the administrative border of the autonomy, did not let the Georgian president heading for Batumi into Adzharia. Tbilisi saw this incident as direct insubordination of the autonomy's authorities to the country's leadership. Batumi in turn claims that the president was accompanied by several hundred people with military hardware. Hence, Adzharia interpreted this as an attempt to invade the autonomy.

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