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Page last updated at 21:28 GMT, Friday, 5 December 2008

Senior Georgian ministers sacked

Grigol Mgaloblishvili
Mr Mgaloblishvili says more experience is needed to strengthen foreign policy

Four key government ministers in Georgia have been sacked in a major cabinet reshuffle.

Correspondents say the move comes as President Mikhail Saakashvili is seeking to deflect criticism from the disastrous war with Russia in August.

President Saakashvili replaced his prime minister a month ago, appointing Grigol Mgaloblishvili.

Now there is a new foreign minister, as well as new ministers for defence, security, and education.

Some government posts were changed when Mr Mgaloblishvili became prime minister, but Defence Minister David Kezerashvili and Foreign Minister Eka Tkeshelashvili had kept their portfolios.

Mr Kezerashvili is to be replaced by his deputy, Batu Kutelia, while Culture Minister Grigol Vashadze will replace 31-year-old Eka Tkeshelashvili.

"Changes need to be made in the sphere of defence," Mr Mgaloblishvili told a news conference shown live on television.

"It is important to strengthen foreign policy and more experience is needed in this direction."

Responsibility

Our correspondent says Eka Tkeshelashvili's departure is the most notable.

She had campaigned for Georgia's admission to the Nato alliance - which was put on hold by Nato foreign ministers this week.

Interior Ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili said the latest sackings had been expected, especially that of the defence minister.

"After a lost war, someone should be held responsible," the Associated Press news agency quotes him as saying.

The conflict in the region began on 7 August when Georgia tried to retake its breakaway region of South Ossetia by force after a series of lower-level clashes with Russian-backed rebels.

Russia launched a counter-attack and the Georgian troops were ejected from both South Ossetia and Abkhazia, a second breakaway region, days later.

Russian forces remain in the two regions, and Moscow has backed their declarations of independence.

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