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Georgia's Shevardnadze Declares State Of Emergency - 2003-11-22


Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze declares a state of emergency and vows to punish protest organizers who took over Parliament today.

Protesters demanding the president's resignation Saturday stormed the parliament and declared one of its leaders -- Nino Burdzhanadze -- acting president. The opposition says it is leading a "velvet revolution."

Georgian Interior Minister Koba Narchemashvili says his troops are ready to restore order to Tbilisi on the orders of Mr. Shevardnadze.

Russia has announced that Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov was traveling to Tbilisi Saturday. Mr. Ivanov represents a council of 12 former Soviet states, which have denounced as "unacceptable" opposition moves to seize power in Georgia.

In Washington, the State Department called on both sides to refrain from violence, pursue dialogue and reach a compromise.

The opposition is protesting parliamentary elections earlier this month that it says were marred by fraud -- a claim supported by foreign observers and the U.S. government.

Opposition leader Mikhail Saakashvili said Mr. Shevardnadze could stay in office only if he calls early elections. Mr. Shevardnadze, who was forced to leave the parliament building, described the opposition actions as a coup. He has refused opposition demands to resign.

Information for this report is provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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