TBILISI - Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said he was not going to leave his post, as the opposition demands. "My resignation would be irresponsible; they think that if I leave, everyone will become happy immediately," he said in a televised address to the nation Friday. "This is only possible through the constitution, and not through collecting signatures. If the entire people demand my resignation, I am ready," he stressed. At the same time, Mr. Shevardnadze noted that he was not going to face "the fate of Ceausescu or Milosevic, as some people predict".
Mr. Shevardnadze rejects the idea that the Georgian parliamentary election, held on November 2, was invalid. "The election took place, although there were some irregularities; the election results were invalidated in 50 constituencies, and a re-vote will be held there," the Georgian President said.
"Because of unrest in Tbilisi, we could lose our economic achievements, which have already become obvious," he added. The economic revival of Georgia has started, the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline is being built, and the construction of the gas pipeline Baku-Tbilisi-Erzerum has begun. Many large foreign investors are working in Georgia, and a business community has been formed. "Unless we come to our senses, we will lose all this," Mr. Shevardnadze pointed out.
At the same time, he re-affirmed his readiness for a dialog with the opposition. "Even now I am ready to meet with the opposition, if only there is no civil stand-off, from which there is one step to civil war," the President said. "I found a common language even with Chechens, and there should not be any problems with my own people. I am for a dialog and normal relations, I am not afraid or ashamed to meet with anyone," he stressed. At the same time, Mr. Shevardnadze noted with regret that the leaders of the Georgian opposition had refused to meet with him and discuss the situation in the country.
The President called on his countrymen not to attend the public rally in central Tbilisi but to return to normal life.
Meanwhile, according to the Information and Press Department of the Russian Foreign Ministry, the Russian-Georgian talks were held Friday, and Russia confirmed its readiness to consider withdrawing Russian troops from the bases in Akhalkalaki and Batumi more quickly than planned, provided there is additional financing from external sources.
The implementation of bilateral agreements on Russia's military presence in Georgia, which were signed in 1999, was also discussed at the meeting. The Russian delegation stressed that Russia had cut its military equipment and weapons according to the agreements, and Russian military bases in Vaziani and Gudauta were closed. The participants of the meeting confirmed their commitment to continuing talks on this issue.