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The News in Brief

Wednesday, February 8
Georgian nationals not yet seeking help in Syria

According to recent reports, Georgian nationals have not reported problems during the military assault on the city of Homs, Syria. No Georgian nationals have applied to the Embassy of Georgia so far; however, it is quite possible that an individual detained by Syrian law enforcement may be a citizen of Georgia. The embassy believes the man is Georgian by origin, but his citizenship has not yet been confirmed.

Explosions and shootings have also occurred in Damascus, as dozens of people were killed this week by government forces. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, says that such actions undermine the legitimacy of President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

World powers are scrambling for a diplomatic solution in the wake of Russia and China's veto of a UN Security Council resolution.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was due to arrive in Damascus Tuesday. Lavrov will be accompanied by the chief of Russian intelligence.

Meanwhile, the United States intends to create a "Plan B" in cooperation with other states, spokesperson for the Department of State Victoria Nuland has said. The U.S. has already recalled its diplomatic mission from Syria. (Rustavi 2)

No comment from President's office on Saakashvili's future

The Office of the President of Georgia has declined to comment on rumours that Mikheil Saakashvili may seek the Prime Minister's chair after his presidential term expires in 2013.

The President’s spokesperson, Manana Manjgaladze, said that Saakashvili has discussed the matter in detail many times, "So I don't see the need to make additional comments".

Foreign media has been especially interested in Saakashvili's plans since his meeting with U.S. President Obama last month. On February 6, the Washington Post’s editorial board penned an article titled, “Mr. Saakashvili’s Choice”. In it, they speculated that his re-distribution of power from the President to the Prime Minister suggests that “Mr. Saakashvili has left open the possibility of switching between the two jobs – just as Mr. Putin did in 2008”.

In addition, the Washington Times ran the headline, “Georgia’s President won’t rule out becoming PM,” while Reuters reported that “Saakashvili Denies He Wants to Stay on as PM”. (Interpressnews)

Labour Party accuses Ivanishvili of slander

The Georgian Labour Party has accused Bidzina Ivanishvili, Georgian Dream leader, of slander. Party representative Kakha Dzagania commented on the billionaire's recent interview in Asaval-Dasavali, in which Ivanishvili said that Saakashvili had "bought" the leader of the Labour Party, Shalva Natelashvili.

Dzagania accused Ivanishvili of acting in cahoots with Saakashvili with the aim of destabilizing opposition forces. He also claimed that Ivanishvili is "afraid" of street rallies, even as the latter politician said he would support protests if elections are revealed to have been rigged.

The Labour Party has also invited Ivanishvili to participate in a televised debate. (Rustavi 2)

Free Georgia welcomes Ivanishvili's initiative

The Free Georgia party has welcomed Bidzina Ivanishvili's proposal for opposition parties to run common candidates in single-mandate constituencies. Ivanishvili told Asaval-Dasavali on Monday that this is the best way to ensure that government candidates are defeated in the parliamentary elections.

He also suggested consultations be held with those parties that are not members of the Georgian Dream coalition, in order to negotiate such an arrangement.

Members of Free Georgia also reacted positively to Ivanishvili's support for street rallies in case of election fraud, but emphasized that such actions should occur prior to the elections and not afterwards.

"We welcome the proposal of Bidzina Ivanishvili about common candidates for single-mandate MPs; by such cooperation we can change one-party rule in Georgia. Street demonstrations before the elections, for fair elections, will give [the opposition] a real chance to win these elections," party member Aleksandre Shalamberidze said. (Rustavi 2)

New power stations to be constructed

Fifteen new hydro-electric power stations will be constructed in Georgia, with projects beginning as soon as this month, presidential spokesperson Manana Manjgaladze announced Tuesday.

She added that the construction of the new power plants is a continuation of the government's energy-independence policy, and that this specific project aims to create about 13 000 new jobs.

Manjgaladze also noted that the opening of new hospitals will continue and several significant projects in the education sector will be announced soon. (Rustavi 2)

Interior Minister in Belarus to discuss police reforms

Georgian Minister of Internal Affairs, Vano Merabishvili, met with the Chair of the Investigation Committee of the Republic of Belarus, Valeri Vakulchik, in Minsk this week.

During the meeting, officials discussed reforms carried out in Georgian law enforcement, which are of great interest to the Belarusian side.

In addition, Merabishvili and Vakulchik signed a cooperation agreement and discussed future relations between their countries.

According to Belarusian law, the head of the national law enforcement body is appointed directly by the President. (Rustavi 2)