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The Week in Brief

Friday, March 14
The Russian Duma is considering whether to recommend formal recognition of Georgia’s separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia [see article].

Parliament amended the constitution with a set of electoral changes redrawing the method of electing the next parliament. Opposition politicians say the new rules put them at a crippling disadvantage; the government says the ‘one district, one MP’ principle is entirely fair.

Opposition campaigners have pitched tents and declared a hunger strike outside parliament, demanding the president’s resignation and fairer elections. Inside parliament, New Rights MPs are on hunger strike in the parliamentary speaker’s antechamber, calling for a 17-point opposition memorandum to be agreed to.

An IMF mission welcomed the government’s fiscal reform package but warned against any erosion of central bank independence. It praised Georgia’s ‘exceptionally strong’ economic performance in 2007, predicting nine percent GDP growth this year.

The OSCE/ODIHR chief wrapped up his Tbilisi visit by emphasizing an urgent need to fix ‘inconsistencies and gaps’ in the election law before the parliamentary elections, now slated for May.

Flights between Georgia and Russia could resume by the end of March, a Russian official suggested. The way was cleared for reopening air links, suspended in the 2006 spy row, after high-level Moscow talks last month and payment of a debt to Russia air navigation authorities.

In a USD 42 million deal, UAE-based Abu Dhabi Group purchased Georgia’s Standard Bank from Salford Capital, the investment fund which handled Georgian assets for recently deceased business tycoon Badri Patarkatsishvili.