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The News in Brief

Monday, March 26
Over one hundred prisoners freed on parole

A commission which meets to discuss the nullification of conditional sentences for prisoners, working through the Ministry of Corrections and Legal Assistance, assembled for the third time Saturday in order to free 122 individuals currently serving time in Georgia's prisons.

Members of the commission discussed applications from detainees who have already served half their terms. Their behaviour and the recommendations of prison observers were considered by the commission while making their decision.

The five-member commission, which assembles once a month, is authorized to make these decisions without a court ruling.
(Rustavi 2)

Gilauri in Lebanon

Prime Minister Nika Gilauri has paid an official visit to Lebanon, to hold meetings with his Lebanese counterpart and the chair of that country's Parliament.

The men agreed to form an inter-governmental council, which will work on cooperation issues, including investment and simplification of the visa regime.

They also decided that a Lebanese government delegation, headed by their Prime Minister, will visit Georgia soon.

Gilauri also attended a forum of Lebanese business authorities and discussed Georgia's economy and business climate with them. Interest was shown in Georgia's tourism, infrastructure, agriculture, and energy sectors.

Unstable weather to last until end of month

Unstable weather will last until the end of the month in Georgia.

The temperature will significantly decrease and the wind will strengthen on March 27, according to government weather authorities.

"The temperature will drop to 7-8 degrees. The wind will strengthen. Snowfall is in the forecast in mountainous regions," said a spokesperson from the National Weather Centre.

The will be a brief reprieve on Wednesday, followed by worse conditions on Thursday.

Free Democrats call for separation of electricity and cleaning taxes

The Our Georgia-Free Democrats party has called on the city government to decouple Tbilisi's combined electricity and municipal cleaning tax, restoring the previous system of payment.

Party representative Zurab Abashidze said the Free Democrats are ready to hold discussions with authorities to agree on a payment collection system that will be compatible with the varied social and economic status of the Tbilisi population.

"We demand nullification of the decision on merging two taxes into one and restoration of the previous system of payment, considering the social state of our population. Afterwards, we are prepared to sit at the negotiating table with the government and discuss methods of paying municipal collection taxes," he announced.

A United National Movement member from City Hall, Koki Ionatamishvili, responded to the demand this weekend, saying that the government does not plan to revise the current system, adding that special privileges are in force for vulnerable families.
(Rustavi 2)

Georgia "concerned" over EU-Belarus tension

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has announced that it is watching with “concern” the growing tensions between countries of the European Union and Belarus.

The Ministry released a statement on March 23, following a decision by the European Union to strengthen “restrictive measures against those responsible for the repression of civil society” in Belarus, by adding another 12 persons and 29 companies to a 200-strong blacklist of entities already banned from travelling or accessing assets in the EU. Belarus responded by saying that it does not “see any necessity" for the return of ambassadors from EU-member countries, who were withdrawn from Minsk by their governments in late February.

"Georgia believes that [serious] efforts must be urgently carried out, aiming at intensification of bilateral diplomatic dialogue and direct contacts for avoiding further escalation of tension and for finding ways of tackling existing issues," the Ministry statement read.

The government also maintained that deepening ties with the EU's Eastern Partnership states – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Moldova, Belarus, Georgia and Ukraine – is of genuine importance to Tbilisi.

In September 2011, when Warsaw hosted an Eastern Partnership summit snubbed by Minsk, President Mikheil Saakashvili said that without Belarus, the EU’s initiative targeting the six former-Soviet states “will not be a full-fledged partnership”.