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Europe

Saakashvili dismisses defense and foreign ministers

Latest update : 2008-12-06

In the aftermath of a war with Russia, Georgian PM Mikheil Saakashvili has dismissed the country's defense and foreign ministers in order to bring "new blood" into the government.

Georgia's defence and foreign ministers were dismissed Friday in a cabinet shake-up President Mikheil Saakashvili said was aimed at bringing "new blood" into the government after a war with Russia.
   
The influential secretary of Georgia's National Security Council, Alexander Lomaia, was also to be replaced, Rustavi-2 television reported.
   
"Those people leaving their positions are distinguished professionals and patriots and they must continue working in senior positions. The government successfully passed an extremely difficult test, but new blood is needed," Saakashvili said in a televised statement.
   
"The people are expecting changes... and we need to take extraordinary decisions," he said.
   
Prime Minister Grigol Mgaloblishvili earlier told reporters that "new energy" was needed in the government as he announced the dismissals of Foreign Minister Eka Tkeshelashvili and Defence Minister David Kezerashvili as well as a radical shake-up of the diplomatic corps.
   
"In the face of the threat to Georgia today... I believe that now is the time for new experience and new energy," he said, according to a government statement.
   
Culture Minister Grigol Vashadze, a longtime diplomat, will be named foreign minister and Deputy Defence Minister Batu Kutelia will be appointed to replace Kezerashvili, the prime minister said.
   
New culture and education ministers will also be appointed, he said.
   
Vashadze immediately announced a reshuffling in the foreign service, saying all deputy foreign ministers and ambassadors would be asked to resign.
   
"I am asking all deputy ministers and ambassadors to resign... Decisions on future appointments will be made according to the performance of these people during the war," he said in televised remarks after his appointment was announced.
   
Rustavi-2 reported that Lomaia, a key ally of Saakashvili and prominent figure during the war, had also been replaced but that a successor had not yet been named.
   
Saakashvili had previously dismissed the military's chief of staff.
   
Meanwhile, the country's ambassador to the United Nations, Irakli Alasania, told Georgian Public Television from New York that he had tendered his resignation prior to the shake-up.
   
"I informed the president about my intention to resign two months ago and I recently submitted my resignation formally," he said.
   
Alasania, one of the most popular figures in Georgia, has been talked up as a possible challenger to Saakashvili and Georgian media reported Friday that he was in consultations with two leading opposition parties.
   
The shake-up comes as Saakashvili faces increasing pressure for his handling of the war in August, which saw Russian troops pour into Georgia to repel a Georgian military attempt to retake the rebel region of South Ossetia.
   
Critics, including some former allies, have accused Saakashvili of provoking the war, which saw Russian forces occupy swathes of territory and bomb targets across the country, dealing a heavy blow to Georgia's economy.
   
Under a European Union-brokered ceasefire agreement, Russian forces later withdrew to within South Ossetia and another rebel region, Abkhazia, which Moscow recognised as independent states.
   
Saakashvili had earlier replaced his wartime prime minister with Mgaloblishvili but left most of the cabinet intact.
   
Tensions remain high around the rebel regions and on Friday Georgia's interior ministry accused South Ossetian rebels of shelling a Georgian police post near the breakaway province. No casualties were reported.
   
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused Georgia on Friday of cutting gas deliveries to South Ossetia, deeming it "inhumane" to do so in winter.
   
Speaking to 50-odd foreign ministers gathered in Helsinki for a two-day meeting of the European security body OSCE, Lavrov urged the organisation "to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe

Date created : 2008-12-06

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