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Last Updated: Friday, 9 November 2007, 15:08 GMT
Georgia opposition ends protests
Georgian soldiers in central Tbilisi - 9/11/2007
Authorities said the state of emergency would be lifted soon
Opposition leaders in Georgia say they have called off their protest campaign against President Mikhail Saakashvili after he announced early elections.

Parliament has voted to approve the 15-day state of emergency ordered by Mr Saakashvili after days of protests that were broken up by police on Wednesday.

Authorities have said the state of emergency will be lifted soon but have not given a date.

Early elections were one of the main demands of protesters.

The vote to approve the state of emergency was passed by all 149 members of the 225-seat parliament who were present. Opposition lawmakers boycotted the vote.

Saakashvili 'gamble'

Mr Saakashvili announced the early elections after widespread shock in Georgia at the ferocity of the police crackdown on protesters in central Tbilisi on Wednesday.

Police used tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets to disperse several thousand protesters.

There were also strong expressions of concern from the president's allies in the West over the declaration of a state of emergency.

CRISIS TIMELINE
Troops in Tbilisi
28 Sep: Thousands rally in Tbilisi against President Saakashvili after arrest of his former ally and ex-defence minister Irakli Okruashvili
2 Nov: About 50,000 attend anti-Saakashvili rally outside parliament, calling for early elections and for Mr Saakashvili to quit
7 Nov: Riot police use force to disperse protesters after six days of opposition rallies, Mr Saakashvili imposes state of emergency
8 Nov: Mr Saakashvili calls early elections for January
9 Nov: Parliament approves state of emergency decree

Mr Saakashvili is taking a gamble by calling early elections but it is one he believes he can win, says the BBC's Matthew Collin in Tbilisi.

In his announcement on Thursday, the president said he would hold a referendum, simultaneously with the presidential vote, on whether to bring those polls forward to the spring.

No opposition figure has emerged who could seriously challenge him in the presidential elections, says our correspondent.

Georgia's opposition accuses the president of corruption and authoritarianism.

They have welcomed the election call as a "victory of the people", and predicted the president would lose.

Mr Saakashvili said on Wednesday that "Russian special services" were behind the unrest in Tbilisi and expelled three Russian diplomats.

Two opposition figures, Shalva Natelashvili and Tsotne Gamsakhurdia, have been accused of spying and plotting a coup in league with the expelled Russian diplomats.

Russia has rejected the claims and expelled three Georgian diplomats.

Georgia's prosecutor general's office said it suspected billionaire Badri Patarkatsishvili of plotting a coup and wanted him for questioning.

Mr Patarkatsishvili finances opposition parties and is the owner of Imedi television, which was taken off the air on Wednesday following the police action against the protesters.

VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Blackout at TV network when troops storm building



SEE ALSO
Georgia to hold early elections
08 Nov 07 |  Europe
Profile: Mikhail Saakashvili
08 Nov 07 |  Europe
Country profile: Georgia
03 Nov 07 |  Country profiles
Q&A: Russian-Georgian ties
07 Aug 07 |  Europe



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