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Last Updated: Monday, 24 November, 2003, 21:44 GMT
Shevardnadze to stay in Georgia
Eduard Shevardnadze (right) and new leader Nino Burjanadze
Eduard Shevardnadze says he is not going to Germany
Former Georgian leader Eduard Shevardnadze says he plans to remain in the country despite being ousted from office.

There was speculation he would leave Georgia following an invitation from the German Government to move there.

But he said: "Although I love Germany very much, my homeland is Georgia and I owe it to her to stay here."

Nino Burjanadze has taken over from Mr Shevardnadze following a "velvet revolution" in Georgia.

Ms Burjanadze, who took over when Mr Shevardnadze resigned, has promised to protect the former president if he stays.

Return to normal

She added that her country would maintain its pro-West stance, and aimed to join Nato and the EU as soon as possible.

The country's new leaders began stamping their authority on Monday, forcing the resignation of the interior minister.

Koba Narchemashvili said he had made the decision to quit at the request of opposition leaders.


Mikhail Saakashvili, the leader of the National Movement and the man who led the campaign to oust Mr Shevardnadze, has said he will run for president.

Life in Georgia began to return to normal on Monday after three weeks of protest toppled Mr Shevardnadze in the wake of alleged fraud in parliamentary elections earlier this month.

But the BBC's correspondent in Tbilisi, Sarah Rainsford, said Georgians are still celebrating.

There were fears that Ajara, an autonomous region out of Tbilisi's control, would declare independence.

But our correspondent says most people predict a war of words in the future, not violence.

The transfer of power was welcomed by US Secretary of State Colin Powell, who called the new interim leader to offer his support and encouragement.

EU cautious

The US has developed strong interests in Georgia since its independence, and is the main backer of a pipeline designed to bring oil from the Caspian sea to the West via Georgia.

But the European Union struck a note of caution, saying democratic elections must be held to "restore a climate of trust and confidence".

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov (left) and former Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze

Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed reservations about the way in which Mr Shevardnadze was forced from power.

"There is logical concern that the transfer of power in Georgia has taken place against a background of strong pressure of the use of force," Mr Putin said on state television on Monday.

"Those who organise and encourage such actions must assume their responsibilities before the Georgian people," he said.

Russia and Georgia have had tense relations since Georgia became independent with the break-up of the Soviet Union.

Russia accuses Georgia of harbouring Chechen militants, while Georgia accuses Moscow of backing separatist movements in the country.

Declaring an end to the disobedience campaign that forced Mr Shevardnadze out, Ms Burjanadze said the country must work to strengthen its ties with its neighbours and "the great state of Russia".

HAVE YOUR SAY
Shevardnadze's resignation will occasion new uncertainties and upheavals, as struggles for movement and change are long and arduous, always unfolding within and producing relations of power
Erin Koch, New York

She praised the behaviour of the Georgian people over the past three weeks.

"We have managed to overcome the gravest crisis in Georgia's recent history without shedding a single drop of blood," she said.

She commended the police and army for standing "on the side of the people in these most difficult days".

Ms Burjanadze said that presidential duties had passed to her in accordance with the constitution until elections are held within 45 days.

Cash strapped

The country's new leaders are expected to ask the US for $5m to fund fresh elections.

They also vowed to reopen negotiations with the International Monetary Fund, which cut ties with the cash-strapped country, citing corruption and failure to collect taxes.

MIKHAIL SAAKASHVILI
Scenes of jubilation ion the streets of Tbilisi
Age 35, lawyer
Studied in US and France
Former head of Tbilisi council
2000: Appointed justice minister by Shevardnadze
2001: Quit government
2001: Formed United National Movement
Pro-Western, radical reformer

Georgia's political crisis came to a head on Saturday when opposition supporters - led by opposition leader Mr Saakashvili - stormed parliament.

Mr Shevardnadze first declared a state of emergency, refusing to hand over power, but after talks with Russia's Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov on Sunday agreed to resign his 10-year presidency.

Regional analyst Tom de Waal told the BBC: "We're now facing a group of inexperienced politicians coming to power on this wave of euphoria, but they're totally untested."


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Damian Grammaticas
"You'd hardly know a revolution has just happened here"



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