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Europe

Saakashvili picks new PM

Latest update : 2009-01-30

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili named the fifth prime minister of his five-year rule on Friday after Grigol Mgaloblishvili abruptly resigned citing ill health after just months in the job. His replacement is Finance Minister Nika Gilauri.

AFP - Georgian Finance Minister Nika Gilauri was named the ex-Soviet republic's new prime minister on Friday after his predecessor abruptly resigned due to poor health.

Former prime minister Grigol Mgaloblishvili announced his resignation only three months after taking the job in a government shake-up following Georgia's war with Russia in August.

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili quickly announced that he would be replaced by Gilauri, who also served as first deputy prime minister.

"The first deputy prime minister is becoming the prime minister," Saakashvili said in televised remarks, describing the replacement as a "technical" move.

"There will be no other changes (in the cabinet)," Saakashvili said.

Mgaloblishvili, who had been absent from his post receiving treatment for kidney problems, said doctors had told him he would need another two months of treatment to recover.

"Georgia does not have the luxury of a prime minister being absent for treatment for three months," Mgaloblishvili said in a live televised address.

Gilauri's candidacy must still be approved by Georgia's parliament but his approval is seen as a formality as Saakashvili's United National Movement holds the vast majority of seats in the legislature.

Georgian political analyst Giorgi Margvelashvili said Mgaloblishvili's resignation was unlikely to have much impact as the former ambassador to Turkey had not had much political influence.

"Gilauri is an insider in Saakashvili's inner circle and has more political weight and experience," Margvelashvili said.

Georgia's government has undergone repeated changes since an August war with Russia, with the country's defence and foreign ministers also replaced.

Saakashvili has faced increasing political pressure over the war, in which Russian troops poured 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 mishandling the war, which saw Russian forces occupy swathes of territory and bomb targets across the country.

On Thursday, leading opponents of Saakashvili joined forces to sign a demand for his resignation and the holding of early elections.

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.

Date created : 2009-01-30

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