Georgian President asks Chechen gunmen to leave his country

Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze suggested that all Chechen men,refugees located in Georgia, should leave Georgia. Commenting onRussian-Georgian relations that have worsened recently due to the situationin the Pankisi Gorge, the President pointed out that at the end of 1999 andat the beginning of 2000 Georgia provided shelter to some 7,500 Chechenrefugees, the majority were women, children and elders. However, amongthose who came to Georgia there were "men who participated in militaryoperations in Chechnya and were wounded there", the Black Sea Press agencyreported citing Shevardnadze.The Georgian President stressed that his call for leaving Georgia did notconcern Chechen women, children and elders.The first time when Shevardnadze admitted that there were Chechen gunmen inthe Pankisi Gorge was in June 2001. He said that in the gorge there weresome 200 to 300 militants that had taken part in military operations inChechnya. In May 2002 Valery Khaburdzaniya, Georgian State SecurityMinister, declared that in the gorge there were about 800 gunmen fromChechnya..

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