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Prepared by Diana Dundua
Friday, January 4

“Three people killed by gas leak”

Akhali Taoba reports that on December 2, 32-year-old Giorgi Gelbakhiani, his 30-year-old wife Tea Gulashvili and 69-year-old guest Sasha Surov died from a gas leak in their rented Tbilisi flat.

Neighbors said they called the emergency service after the Gelbakhianis did not answer their door for several days. They had two young children, who were staying elsewhere.

There is no direct relation between the family and MP Valeri Gelbakhiani, one-time head of tycoon Badri Patarkatsishvili’s presidential campaign, the MP’s wife told the newspaper.

“Labor Party distrusts election observers”

Representatives of Labor presidential candidate Shalva Natelashvili say they do not trust the TV stations and election observers planning to conduct exit polls on January 5, Mteli Kvira writes.

At a January 2 press conference, Labor member Nestan Kirtadze claimed that incumbent presidential candidate Mikheil Saakashvili is commissioning the exit polling, and therefore its results cannot be trusted.

“It is nonsense to say that the early presidential elections scheduled for January 5 will be fairly and democratically held, because, right now, democracy doesn’t exist at all in Georgia. I will say that these elections will be a test of loyalty toward Western values,” Kirtadze said.

“Kezerashvili and Gogava celebrated the New Year together with Georgian soldiers”

On the first day of 2008, according to Akhali Taoba, Defense Minister Davit Kezerashvili and Chief of General Staff of the Armed Forces Col. Zaza Gogava celebrated New Year’s Day with Georgian soldiers at Vaziani military base.

Givi Targamadze, chair of the parliamentary Defense and Security Committee marked New Year’s with soldiers of the first and fourth infantry brigades.

Other officials, including deputy Defense Minister Batu Kutelia, celebrated the New Year with the fifth infantry brigade in Batumi and the Georgian navy base in Poti.

“Bakradze calls on opponents to cooperate”

State Minister Davit Bakradze, spokesman for incumbent presidential candidate Mikheil Saakashvili’s campaign, has called on the campaign’s political opponents to cooperate in maintaining peace, according to Sakartvelos Respublika.

“It is essential that any kind of difficulties be avoided,” Bakradze said.

Bakradze promised that the January 5 presidential election will be free and fair, with many election monitors deployed to keep an eye on the process.

He criticized opposition campaigners for announcing they would send campaign activists to polling places on Election Day.

“I want to express alarm toward statements made by opposition supporters, according to which they are going to mobilize activists at electoral districts. This [brings the threat of] destabilization and provocations which will negatively influence the election process,” Bakradze stated.

“A famous Georgian painter died”

Akhali Taoba reports that renowned Georgian painter Tengiz Mirzashvili died at home on January 2. He was 73.

Mirzashvili, better known by his nickname, “Chubchika,” had terminal cancer.

According to a family friend, the painter had an operation in Germany three years ago.

“After the operation, he felt better. But in the last two weeks his health worsened,” the friend said.

He added that Mirzashvili would be buried in the Didube Pantheon of Eminent Public Persons on January 5.