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The News in Brief

Monday, September 22
Surgery--a success for Tbilisi Zoo elephant

One of Tbilisi Zoo’s largest residents has survived a complicated surgery to remove a large infection.

International veterinarian surgeons operated on an elephant named Grandi to remove a portion of his infected tusk. They said there was a chance Grandi would not wake after the surgery.

The operation itself, which took place at Tbilisi Zoo on Wednesday, was more complicated than expected and lasted for several hours. British veterinary surgeons used an electric drill to remove the infection from Grandi’s tusk.

Veterinarians said Grand’s heartbeat and vital signs were normal after the surgery however there was a risk the elephant would not wake from the anesthetic.

The experts said it was common after major surgery for animals never to regain consciousness but in Grandi’s case it all ended well.

As he awoke from his drug-induced-sleep, Grandi appeared extremely drowsy and needed assistance to stand up.

The surgery started at 10am on September 18 and on the day almost everyone in Georgia wished the elephant a successful surgery.

Tbilisi Zoo had a screen installed at the Zoo’s information centre where journalists, supporters and animal-lovers watched the surgery progress.

Grandi weighed about six tons and because of his immense weight, when he lay down, his entire mass pressed down on his lungs. This could potentially constrict the lungs, resulting in respiratory arrest, the English veterinarians said.

Despite the success of the surgery, Grandi is not out of the woods. The added complications meant the veterinary surgeons could not operate on Grandi’s other tusk, which was also infected. This operation was scheduled to take place two years from now.

Georgia embraces tougher gun laws

The Georgian Government is taking a tougher stance on the country’s currently relaxed gun laws and making it illegal for people to buy or carry guns without special permission.

In particular, 18-year-olds will no longer be able to obtain a firearm legally and the age of owing a gun will increase to 23.

The government believed the new rules acted as a preventive measure to further protect the lives and health of Georgian citizens.

Under the new rules, Georgian citizens over the age of 21 will have the right to purchase sporting, gas and dwarf guns. And those who wanted to purchase, keep or carry a gun will be obliged to pass an exam about weapon safety and rules of owning a firearm.

A person also undergo a special check to determine their mental state of mind, which will give authorities information about whether to grant that person a gun license or not.

The new rules also set standards for keeping a weapon. In particular, the gun must be kept in safety mode.

The new law will also be tougher for people who want to purchase or carry guns. If a person was found to be flouting the rules, they faced a four-year prison sentence instead of a fine.

Heavier penalties will also be enforced for people who illegally carry a gun. The penalty for committing this kind of criminal offence was a four to six-year term of imprisonment.

People who had ever committed a criminal crime will never get permission to own a gun, officials said.

In addition, people who have committed an administrative offence, including minor hooliganism, drunk driving and resisting police, would also be forbidden from owing a gun.

“Saakashvili’s case may undermine Georgia’s efforts to move forward”

If many opposition leaders are persecuted, there will be no strong opposition and this will pose a threat to Georgia’s democracy, Eric Rubin, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, has said in an exclusive interview with The Voice of America.

“We are concerned by the fact that so much attention and energy is spent on the past; specific cases should not be assessed by us, but we believe that when we are talking about Georgia’s former President Mikheil Saakashvili, who is now the major opposition figure, his case may undermine Georgia’s efforts to move forward and create true democracy,” Eric Rubin said.

According to Eric Rubin, his statement is advice and not a warning.

On September 12, the US Department of State released the following statement:

“The United States urges all of Georgia’s pro-democracy and pro-Euro-Atlantic forces to focus on their common interests, build on recent achievements, and work together to move the country forward and address the pressing economic and regional security challenges of the day. We are concerned by the continued investigations and criminal charges against opposition figures and the risks that politicized prosecutions would pose for Georgia’s democracy. The United States continues to support Georgia’s democratic development, which must include respect for political pluralism and open debate”.

Sokhumi Wants Change of Format and Agenda of Geneva Talks

Sokhumi supports continuation of Geneva talks, but its format and agenda should be changed, something that is strongly opposed by Tbilisi, foreign minister of breakaway Abkhazia, Viacheslav Chirikba, said on September 18.

The recent round of Geneva talks in June was disrupted after participants from breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia walked out from one of the two working groups; representatives from Sokhumi and Tskhinvali, backed by Russian negotiator, demanded removing issue of displaced persons and refugees from the agenda of talks.

“There have been problems during the twenty eighth round of talks [in June]; we want to avoid them, therefore we have to agree in advance about rules of the game,” Abkhaz news agency, Apsnipress, reported quoting Chirikba.

“Format and agenda – these are the main problems. We are not discussing the issue of refugees at all, but Georgians insist on discussion of this issue,” Chirikba said. “But what unites all the participants is the opinion that this forum [Geneva talks] has not exhausted itself, it is useful.”

He met on September 18 with co-chairs of the Geneva talks from EU, UN and OSCE, who are preparing the next round of the negotiations, scheduled for October 7-8.

“We understand that we are facing a difficult task of finding a compromise on agenda and format,” Chirikba said. “The Abkhaz side is against of thwarting the talks, but there are issues of principle, which we cannot give up.”

Before visiting Sokhumi co-chairs of the Geneva discussions met Georgian chief negotiator Davit Zalkaliani, the first deputy foreign minister, in Tbilisi on September 15. The Georgian Foreign Ministry said on September 15 that “destructive” actions aimed at change of format and agenda of talks, which were agreed upon when these talks were launched after the August 2008 war, are “totally unacceptable.”

“The Georgian delegation underlined that the working groups should function without obstructions and that it is necessary to focus on such key issues as non-use of force, international security mechanisms and return of refugees and internally displaced persons,” the Georgian Foreign Ministry said.

Geneva talks, co-chaired by representatives from the EU, OSCE and UN, are held in two working groups. Participants from Georgia, Russia and the U.S., as well as from breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia are discussing security-related issues in the first working groups and humanitarian issues, including related with displaced persons, in the second working group. Talks involve negotiators from Georgia, Russia and the United States, as well as from Sokhumi and Tskhinvali. They are taking part in the discussions in an individual capacity without identifying the entities they are representing and formally they are referred to as “participants” in order to avoid differences on the status of negotiators, in particular of representatives from the breakaway regions.