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Last Updated: Monday, 24 November, 2003, 15:38 GMT
Georgia's new leader replaces mentor
Nino Burjanadze and Eduard Shevardnadze
Nino Burjanadze and Eduard Shevardnadze were once allies
Nino Burjanadze, the woman who has become the acting president of Georgia, has replaced the man who was once her mentor.

The mother of two, who comes from a well-connected and wealthy family in Georgia, was initially closely associated with the ousted president, Eduard Shevardnadze.

Her father heads the former Soviet republic's bread and flour monopoly and financed Mr Shevardnadze's last presidential campaign.

But her gradual disillusionment with the former president culminated on Saturday when she took over his role for an interim period before new parliamentary elections are held.

Leading light

Ms Burjanadze, 39, studied law in both Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, and Moscow before becoming a professor at Tbilisi State University in 1991.

During the following few years she acted as an advisor to a number of government departments in Georgia before being elected to the country's parliament in 1995.

Known for her stylish clothes, she quickly became one of the leading lights of the then government bloc, the Citizen Union of Georgia.

They [protesters] tried to defend their votes and I am really very happy that this revolution ended without blood
Nino Burjanadze

Ms Burjanadze, considered a moderate, continue to pursue her interest in law in parliament and became its speaker in November 2001.

But she eventually became disillusioned with the veteran Mr Shevardnadze - who has for decades dominated the political scene in the mountainous country on the Black Sea.

She initially joined the opposition. But her final break with Mr Shevardnadze came in a disagreement at a cabinet meeting six months ago, when he criticized parliament for holding up legislation.


Just before the country's controversial 2 November parliamentary election, she formed her own party, Burjanadze-Democrats, with the man who served as parliamentary speaker before her.

Those elections, which returned pro-Shevardnadze parties to power but were marred by claims of fraud, led to days of protests.

These allowed Ms Burjanadze to shoot into the political spotlight when dozens of protestors stormed parliament on Saturday.

Mr Shevardnadze fled parliament, leaving Ms Burjanadze to take to the podium.

Georgian protest crowd
The acting president praised the protesters

She urged the angry demonstrators to calm down and behave civilly.

Following Mr Shevardnadze's resignation she explained that, under the constitution, presidential duties passed to her until elections are held within 45 days.

After taking power, the acting president praised the people of Georgia for bringing about a peaceful, "velvet revolution".

She told the BBC: "The people were fighting for freedom, for democracy in the country for their votes.

"They tried to defend their votes and I am really very happy that this revolution ended without blood."

Ms Burjanadze, who is married to Georgia's deputy prosecutor general, promised free and fair elections.

She was also quick to outline the country's long-term foreign policy aims.

"We really want to be a member of Atlantic alliance and European Union as soon as possible," she said.

And although they may have had their political differences, the interim leader showed she was not going to totally desert her former ally by supporting his desire to continue living in Georgia.

"He has the right to choose where to live. He will have full security guarantees, he and his family," she said.

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