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    LEADER OF ADZHARIA TO MEET WITH GEORGIAN PRESIDENT

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    TBILISI, MARCH 17 (RIA NOVOSTI) - Adzharian leader Aslan Abashidze is to meet with the President of Georgia, Mikhail Saakashvili, on Thursday, March 18. The arrangement was made during today's long talks between the breakaway region's leader and the Speaker of the Georgian Parliament, Nino Burdzhanadze.

    At a subsequent press conference, Ms. Burdzhanadze told reporters that "despite the complicated background, the conversation with Aslan Abashidze was a constructive one." She said that Saakashvili and Abashidze would be meeting tete-a-tete for the first time Thursday, the Novosti Georgia news agency reports. She expressed hope that the two men would be able to discuss all outstanding problems and to "get the relations between the region and the center back on the constitutional track." Conditions should be created in Adzharia for holding a fair parliamentary election on March 28, Ms. Burdzhanadze said. "Everyone is perfectly aware of how fragile the situation in Georgia is now - it is clear to Batumi as well as to Tbilisi - so we must do everything we can to make the forthcoming meeting a significant one," she pointed out.

    "I don't expect all the existing problems to be resolved overnight, but the important thing now is to change the background; the [overall] situation will then start to change," the Speaker of Georgia's Parliament noted. She said she was hopeful that Saakashvili and Abashidze would at least be able to alleviate the dispute at their meeting Thursday.

    "All of us realize that the blockade against Adzharia cannot last long as this is our common homeland," said Ms. Burdzhanadze. "No one in Tbilisi wants or intends to go to war with Adzharia, just like no one in Adzharia is planing on a war with the rest of Georgia, I am sure."

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