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The Week in Brief

Friday, March 21
President Mikheil Saakashvili is in Washington and New York, bolstering support for his administration and Tbilisi’s bid for a NATO Membership Action Plan at the Bucharest summit in April [see article]. He proposed ‘radical’ new approaches to conflict resolution in Abkhazia, and picked up George W. Bush’s public support for Georgian NATO membership.

The Russian Duma will advise their government to increase links with the self-declared republics of Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Moldova’s Transdniester, and to recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia if Georgia joins NATO [see article].

The opposition have vowed, via street rallies, an ‘uncompromising battle’ against the government. They now demand the resignation of the parliamentary speaker, dozens remain outside parliament on hunger strike despite the Patriarch’s exhortation to stand down [see article] and the eight-party coalition protested outside the US embassy. Crowds, however, are waning.

The first Tbilisi–Moscow flights in nearly a year and a half will take off by the end of the month, after Russia restored air links following high-level negotiations and Georgian debt repayment.

Separatist authorities in breakaway Abkhazia claimed to shoot down a Georgian drone reconnaissance airplane, a report strenuously denied by Tbilisi.

The former chief of late Georgian billionaire Badri Patarkatsishvili’s presidential campaign launched a new political party, with the goal of ‘removing Saakashvili from power.’ Party leader Gocha Jojua, mindful of the pressures on his deceased patron, promises to conceal the party’s financial backers.

Strong winds blew off part of the roof from the accident-prone Tbilisi International Airport, for the second time since it opened last year.