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Last Updated: Monday, 10 November, 2003, 20:45 GMT
Georgian protesters block troops
Opposition supporters
Protesters have been on the streets for days
Georgian protesters are increasing pressure on President Eduard Shevardnadze after a disputed election.

On Monday, they blocked a railway line, preventing the government from bringing fresh troops to the capital Tbilisi.

Other activists have threatened to go on hunger strike after parliamentary elections just over a week ago.

Mr Shevardnadze, looking to shore up support, has visited his rival Aslan Abashidze, who is said to have promised troops if unrest worsens.

The count from last Sunday's poll has been suspended following numerous complaints about irregularities.

I call on them to come to their senses, or they may drive themselves and the country into the abyss by their actions
President Eduard Shevardnadze

Georgia's interior minister announced on Monday that some troops were being moved from the remote Pankisi Gorge region to Tbilisi.

Koba Narchemashvili insisted that the move was due to deteriorating weather conditions, not the political situation - but the announcement did little to ease tensions.

Protesters obstructing a railway line forced a train carrying troops to stop near the city of Telavi, about 70 kilometres (40 miles) east of the capital.

No deal

Talks between Mr Shevardnadze and three opposition parties demanding his resignation collapsed on Sunday.

Mikhail Saakashvili
Saakashvili says the president must go
The opposition leaders emerged from two hours of talks saying they would urge their supporters to keep protesting.

Mikhail Saakashvili, of the biggest opposition bloc, the National Movement, said discussions with the president had been a waste of time.

Mr Shevardnadze described the meeting as "tense but interesting" but offered to meet the leaders again later this week.

Hundreds of opposition supporters have spent days protesting on the streets of the capital.

Mr Saakashvili said a group of the demonstrators were starting an indefinite hunger strike on Monday night "to show that people are ready to go to any lengths in order that this government steps down".

Rivals meet

On Monday, the president travelled to Batumi on the Black Sea coast meet Mr Abashidze, whose Revival party remains in second place to the president's For a New Georgia bloc, according to preliminary results from the Central Election Commission.

The two men have previously been seen as rivals, but are now thought willing to work together.

A crowd estimated at more than 15,000 strong turned out to see the president denounce "demagoguery".

Mr Abashidze has urged Mr Shevardnadze to take more decisive measures against the demonstrators.

Mr Shevardnadze told television in Ajaria that he wanted dialogue with the opposition.

"A few politicians in Tbilisi have begun a fierce battle for power," he said. "They don't disdain to insult and attack the president and are calling for a violent seizure of power."

He added that he was pleased that Mr Abashidze and the people of Batumi "sincerely supported Georgia's central authorities in their struggle to maintain law and order".

Russian support

Opposition concerns about the 2 November elections do not appear to have swayed Russia's support for Mr Shevardnadze.

Vladimir Putin is said to have told the Georgian president that Moscow was "ready to give all possible support to Georgia".

For a New Georgia: 20.9%
Revival: 19.6%
National Movement: 18%
Democrats: 7.7%

The Itar-Tass news agency says the election results in 27 constituencies have been declared invalid.

It said the Georgian Central Elections commission had announced that the second round of elections in these constituencies would be held on 16 November.

Ten out of 75 constituencies which elect candidates on a majority vote will hold run-off elections on November 23.

Before the suspension of the count, official interim figures showed that pro-government parties were holding the lead in the ballot, which observers say suffered spectacular irregularities.


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