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After Talks Opposition Calls for Boosting Protests
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 11 May.'09 / 20:50

The opposition leaders addressing thousands of protesters outside the Parliament on May 11, after talks with President Saakashvili, have called for expending and making protests “sharper,” but some leaders have also called for further talks in parallel to rallies.

Four opposition leaders – Salome Zourabichvili, Irakli Alasania, Levan Gachechiladze and Kakha Shartava –met with the President earlier on Monday. After briefing their partners from other opposition parties about the meeting, they address the rally.

Salome Zourabichvili, leader of Georgia’s Way party, told the rally that the meeting made clear for her that President Saakashvili “lives in a virtual reality” and that the authorities refuse to even acknowledge that there is crisis in the country.

“He [Saakashvili] told us that there was no crisis… I think that he really believes in what he is saying, because of this virtual reality they have created,” she said.

“Personally my dialogue with them ended today,” she said.

Levan Gachechiladze, an individual opposition politician, however, told the really that the opposition should continue dialogue “no matter how inadequate” the authorities were.

But he also said that in parallel the opposition should further expand its protest rallies, including in the provinces.

“We should make our protest rallies sharper and larger, including geographically; we should more citizens part of this process – that’s our major goal from now on,” Gachechiladze said. “This is an irreversible process and nothing, except of Saakashvili’s resignation, can stop it.”

“There was nothing remarkable at that meeting; one thing I remember: after the meeting I had a sense of emptiness, because it was clear for me that our country needs to be saved,” he added.

In a brief speech to protesters, Irakli Alasania, the leader of Alliance for Georgia, said that the meeting, “which ended without results,” should not become a source of “disappointment.”

“Because we are still together and we are still trying to find way out from this situation,” he said. “Levan [Gachechiladze] is right when saying that we will talk again with everyone if the country needs it.”

“But it is up to us to achieve the result through our struggle,” he continued. “Naturally our proposal for [Saakashvili’s] resignation was rejected. But before the Saakashvili’s resignation we should continue our everyday struggle for free media; we should struggle for security of our supporters; these are the issues on which we should continue our efforts no matter of the result [of the meeting with the President].”

“We should direct our very calculated steps towards achieving our goals very quickly… The fact that we have been standing here for a month already demonstrates that we will not get tired,” Alasania added.

Kakha Shartava, the leader of National Forum party, told the rally that it was “cynical,” when, according to him, President Saakashvili told the opposition negotiators that “nothing special was going on” and that the rallies were only held in Tbilisi, but not in the provinces.

“The entire Georgia should stand up,” Shartava said. “Everyone should come out [in the streets] to protect Georgia.”

Davit Gamkrelidze, the leader of New Rights Party, which is part of Alliance for Georgia, said at the rally that there were some expectations among the society towards the meeting with the President.

“But to be frank, I have never believed in dialogue with [Saakashvili],” he said. “He can not take this step and resign apparently because we do not seem to be sharp and radical enough.”

“If the next meeting takes place, this meeting should be held against the background of tens of thousands of protesters standing outside a building where the meeting will be held,” Gamkrelidze said. “Today he actually told us: either go home or prevail over me.”

Nino Burjanadze, a former parliamentary speaker and leader of Democratic Movement-United Georgia, told the rally that the meeting was “anyway a positive” step, because it has demonstrated “whether there is or not a chance” to negotiate with the President.

“Western states, which now call on us for a dialogue, would not have tolerated what Saakashvili is doing,” she said. 

“We should move to vigorous and active actions from tomorrow in order to wake these authorities up,” Burjanadze said. “Saakashvili still has a chance to quit and to show that the country is more important for him than his chair. I do not believe in that, but anyway I want to have at least some hope about it… We will not wait till 2013 or 2010.”

Gubaz Sanikidze of the National Forum party told the rally that on May 12 the opposition will put forth “a detailed action plan,” which he said might involve blocking of key highways. The opposition planned to block the key east-west highway, but put it off following the May 5 incident at the Mukhrovani military unit and May 6 confrontation between the police and protesters.

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