Zurab Zhvania, &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/world/20/92/371/14871_abkhazia.html' target=_blank>Georgia's widely-respected prime minister seen as the driving force behind market-oriented economic reform in the restive &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/hotspots/2001/10/23/18879.html' target=_blank>Caucasus republic, died after apparently breathing toxic fumes leaked by a faulty heater.
Zhvania, 41, was found by his bodyguards slumped over a table in an apartment on the outskirts of Tbilisi, Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili told reporters.
Other officials said he appeared to have succumbed to inadequately-ventilated carbon monoxide fumes from a heating unit, reports Turkish Press.
According to the Guardian, Georgia's interior minister said there was no reason to suspect foul play, but a lawmaker reportedly pointed the finger at "outside forces." His remarks were aimed at Russia, which has ties with Georgia's separatist regions of &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/cis/2002/07/05/31851.html' target=_blank>South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and prompted a terse response from Moscow.
The lawmaker, Alexander Shalamberidze, noted that the death of Zhvania, came days after a car bombing that killed three policemen in Gori, the city nearest to South Ossetia. Zhvania, considered a moderate influence in the government of this former Soviet republic, had been trying to negotiate settlements with the separatist regions. "The explosion in Gori and Zhvania's death have dealt strong blows to our state. Now our neighbors are going to take advantage of that, they are saying we are almost savages living in the cold," Shalamberidze said.