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    SAAKASHVILI CONFIRMS HE GOES TO BATUMI AND WILL LIFT SANCTIONS IN CASE OF HOLDING A NORMAL ELECTION CAMPAIGN THERE

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    TBILISI, March 18, 2004 - RIA Novosti. Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili has confirmed that he will meet with Adzhar leader Aslan Abashidze in Batumi, the capital of the autonomous republic.

    "On Thursday I shall go to Batumi to meet with Aslan Abashidze, after that I shall meet with his opposition. I have taken the decision to go to Adzharia in order to lessen the tension and to solve many principled questions which have been accumulated in the course of several years," Mikhail Saakashvili said on Wednesday evening after consultations with State Security Minister Zurab Adeishvili and Georgian Prosecutor General Irakly Okruashvili.

    According to the President, he intends to discuss with the Adzhar leader "the normal holding of the pre-election campaign of the parliamentary early elections on March 28." "Among other questions, I intend to insist on releasing prisoners who were sentenced for political considerations," Mikhail Saakashvili said.

    According to him, his "intentions are constructive but principled." "If we reach an agreement on holding a normal pre-election campaign, the economic sanctions against Adzharia will be lifted. We have proved the full capacity our government and of the frontier ministry. We have also proved the full capacity of our army," Mikhail Saakashvili told reporters.

    In his statement for the press, the Georgian President also touched upon the visit to Batumi by Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov. "I do not regard the arrival of Yury Luzhkov as a mediatory mission. I do not need any mediators in the dialogue with my subordinates," Saakashvili said.

    He also noted that he appreciated the position of the Russian leadership which has clearly demonstrated its non-interference in the internal processes in Georgia.

    In the Georgian presidential press service RIA Novosti was not informed about the route of Saakashvili's visit to Adzharia. According to one of the versions, the President intends to arrive in Poti by helicopter and then with an escort he will go to Batumi.

    After visiting Batumi, on Thursday evening the Georgian President will go to the Slovak capital of Bratislava for a working visit.

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