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No Step Back – Opposition Leaders Say
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 26 May.'09 / 22:14

Some of the opposition leaders have vowed not to step back from their drive to force President Saakashvili to resign and called for more “active measures” including for blocking a railway.

“We will act decisively and very actively. We are not going to take any step back. Probably nobody expected that the Georgian Patriarch would have told us to go and overthrow Saakashvili, the Patriarch of course would not have said it,” Nino Burjanadze, leader of Democratic Movement-United Georgia, told protesters outside the Parliament.

“We will continue our legal, but very active struggle because we will not tolerate the authorities which are not legal, which is in fact the government of criminals. I want to tell you that we are going to take all those actions which will finally bring us to changing Saakashvili’s regime in a very short period of time. Saakashvili will resign. Our actions should be very harsh but full of responsibility,” Burjanadze added.

“I knew that his holiness would not have made or would not have been allowed to make the statement, which we wanted. But he did not tell us that we should not struggle; we should do our deed ourselves. Our spiritual leader is an example and a huge force for us; but he can not do what is up to us to do; he can not struggle instead of us,” Eka Beselia from the Movement for Unite Georgia, a party founded by ex-defense minister Irakli Okruashvili said.

An influential head of the Georgian Orthodox Church, Ilia II intervened in political standoff by hinting that the opposition should put aside demanding the President’s resignation.

“Part of our population is demanding President’s resignation. I want to say that this issue is so complicated and generally, it has to some extent become a rule in our country, where the first president [Zviad Gamsakhurdia], the second president [Eduard Shevardnadze] was forced to resign. You know what these resignations have brought to us,” Patriarch Ilia II said in his sermon in the Holy Trinity Cathedral.

As he was speaking thousands of people were standing in the yard of the Cathedral, where they arrived from the opposition’s rally on the football stadium earlier on May 26. An influential Mayor of Tbilisi, Gigi Ugulava, who is a close ally of President Saakashvili, also arrived in the Cathedral at the time when the opposition leaders were already there.

After the prayer Levan Gachechiladze, one of the opposition leaders, told the protesters to move towards the Parliament, a key venue of ongoing protests, to announce about the future plans.

The Patriarch’s statement and also presence of Tbilisi Mayor in the Holy Trinity Cathedral triggered speculation among many protesters that the opposition was going to step back from its drive to force Saakashvili to resign.

As thousands were gathered outside the Parliament some opposition leaders, including Salome Zourabichvili, Levan Gachechiladze, Nino Burjanadze, Zviad Dzidziguri, Davit Gamkrelidze and Eka Beselia had to allay angry boos of some protesters who were calling on leaders not to step back and to take radical actions.

A singer and activist Giorgi Gachechiladze told the protesters: "While blood runs through my veins I will not allow Saakashvili to reign in our country. Now, I will tell you what happened today and you judge yourselves. Today the Georgian Patriarch was taken 'hostage' because he was not allowed to say what he was going to say in his speech. They [the authorities] frightened him and did not let him say what he was going to say. But anyway, we will struggle to the end."

Opposition leader present there told the protesters that they would continue with the protests and that they would now discuss about the future actions. After a while they announced about the intention to block the railway and called on supporters to march towards the Tbilisi central railway station. Part of protesters continued rallying outside the Parliament. 

Irakli Alasania, leader of Alliance for Georgia, however, said that there were actions in which he would not take part, including in blocking highways and railways. He, however, said his team would act jointly with other opposition leaders in other forms of protests.

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