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Tuesday, October 20, 1998 Published at 12:07 GMT 13:07 UK

World: Europe

Georgian mutiny collapses

A military rebellion that broke out in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia on Monday has collapsed, with most of the soldiers involved returning to barracks.

A search is underway for the rebel leader, Colonel Akaki Eliava - a supporter of late President Zviad Gamsakhurdia - who faces a charge of treason.

President Eduard Shevardnadze says the mutiny was aimed at stopping plans to pipe oil from Azerbaijan to the West across the Caucasus.

The rebels took over their garrison in the western town of Senaki early on Monday, and advanced on the second largest city, Kutaisi, with hi-jacked tanks and armoured vehicles.

After clashes with government troops which left at least one person dead, they agreed to return.

The majority were back in their barracks by Tuesday, military officials said.

US President Bill Clinton expressed concern over the violence and voiced support for Mr Shevardnadze and "the stability, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia".

Stronghold of Gamsakhurdia supporters

The BBC Moscow correspondent, Andrew Harding, says western Georgia remains the stronghold of supporters of former President Gamsakhurdia, who was overthrown in 1992.

His followers are believed to have been involved in a recent attempt to assassinate President Shevardnadze.

Mr Shevardnadze has been struggling to end years of turmoil in the former Soviet republic and has regularly accused forces in neighbouring Russia of trying to undermine his efforts.

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