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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 December, 2003, 13:20 GMT
Georgian leaders hold key talks
Georgia's acting president Nino Burjanadze
Ms Burjanadze will hope to bring Ajaria into January's elections
Georgia's acting president was meeting key regional leader Aslan Abashidze on Wednesday, amid continuing tensions.

Nino Burjanadze flew to semi-autonomous Ajaria to be greeted by Mr Abashidze, who does not recognise the "rose revolution" which ousted President Eduard Shevardnadze.

The talks were expected to be dominated by January's presidential poll, which Mr Abashidze has threatened to boycott.

Georgia's main opposition is fielding a single candidate, Mikhail Saakashvili.


The BBC's Steven Eke says Mr Abashidze is known to have deep personal animosity for Mr Saakashvili, bringing the risk of possible serious instability if, as expected, he becomes Georgian president.

Ajaria, which has close links with Russia, has boosted its ties with Moscow since the ousting of Mr Shevardnadze.

Ajaria's leader Aslan Abashidze with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov in Moscow during a visit last month
Ajaria's leader Mr Abashidze is a welcome guest in Moscow
Moscow has eased visa regulations for Ajaria's citizens, prompting a furious reaction from the interim Georgian administration.

Mr Shevardnadze was forced to quit after mass protests which followed a flawed parliamentary election in November.

Mr Abashidze, a 65-year-old former Soviet bureaucrat, has run Ajaria since Georgia gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

He is accused of running the region like a personal fiefdom, amid allegations of nepotism and authoritarianism.

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