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    GEORGIAN LEADERSHIP DEMANDS THAT ADZHARIAN AUTHORITIES RESTORE RAILWAY TRAFFIC

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    TBILISI, MARCH 17 (RIA NOVOSTI) - The Georgian top is insistently calling on Adzharia to re-open railways and the administrative border for free travel and freight transport, Irakly Rekhviashvili, Georgian Economy Minister, said to a news conference in Tbilisi.

    "To overcome the difficult situation in the region, the center is willing to meet the Adzharian top at the negotiation table on those issues, and on current anti-Adzharian sanctions - in particular, the closure of a seaport, an airport, and a customs office in Sarpi.

    "The Adzharian economy must become part and parcel of the Georgian one. Central authorities are ready to assume responsibility for managerial and administrative improvements in the republic and the entire country," said the minister, as the Novosti-Georgia news agency reports.

    No one but autonomous authorities are to blame for Adzharia's present-day plight, stressed Mr. Rekhviashvili. "Tbilisi imposed its sanctions in response to Adzharian insubordination. The sanctions also aim to prevent arms smuggling to the republic," he specified his point.

    "Railways were blocked on Adzharian rulers' orders, and the railway bed was dismantled the day before Georgia introduced its economic sanctions," the minister went on.

    The rail blockade threatens Georgia with negative consequences in the long-term prospect. The Economy Ministry is negotiating to retain partnership with private corporate users of the Georgian transport corridor, and to establish alternative freight routes.

    The Adzharian crisis is hampering Caspian oil railway transportation to a petroleum terminal in Batumi, major Black Sea port and Adzharian capital, Irakly Rekhviashvili said.

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