US Ambassador comes to Batumi again to mediate talks between Georgia and Adjaria

US Ambassador to Georgia Richard Miles arrived in Batumi yesterday to meet with Adjarian leader Aslan Abashidze for the third time in less than a month. Miles' goal is to persuade Abashidze to permit the conduct of Georgian presidential elections on the territory of autonomous Adjaria on January 4.

Miles told journalists after a five-hour meeting with Abashidze that the 'US administration was interested in stabilizing relations between the Georgian federal government and autonomous Adjaria and conducting presidential elections on the territory of Adjaria.' He added that he would give all of Abashidze's proposals to interim Georgian President Nino Burdjanadze and Government Minister Zurab Zhvaniya.

Abashidze has still not agreed to hold presidential elections in Adjaria. Last week Abashidze and Zhvaniya also discussed the presidential elections theme. And earlier Burdjanadze also discussed the issue with Abashidze. US envoy Lynn Pasco also met recently with Abashidze to discuss the question. It is reported that Abashidze has shown his guests its voter lists and polling station equipment in a bid to demonstrate how well prepared Adjaria is for elections. 'They are ready to begin tomorrow. But the actual conduct of presidential elections should take place only if Georgia returns to the limits set by constitutional law,' he said. Central authority must stop illegal preliminary registrations of voters and stop the work of parliament summoned in 1999. It must also admit that the High Court did not have the right to annul the results of the November 2 parliamentary elections because that is strictly the domain of the Constitutional Court.

'Talks with Burdjanadze and Zhvaniya will continue,' he said. Abashidze also denied information that people are being pursued in Adjaria who do not share the views of Batumi on events occurring in Georgia, and are also demanding that presidential elections be held in Adjaria. 'I myself come from a family that was repressed and do not like to punish people. It would not be in our interests to pursue anyone,' he said.

Tbilisi says it is satisfied with the constructive dialogue with Abashidze but for the time being nothing has changed. It is expected that Zhvaniya will return to Batumi to continue talks with Abashidze after talks with Miles have concluded.

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