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Rally Marks Month-Long Protests
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 9 May.'09 / 19:05

Thousands of protesters gathered outside the Parliament in Tbilisi on May 9, marking one month since the launch of street rallies to demand President Saakashvili’s resignation.

Opposition leaders, addressing the protesters, reiterated that they were waiting for the authorities’ response on their calls for unconditional meeting between them and President Saakashvili.

“We are waiting for the response on our question: where and when Saakashvili will meet us?” Salome Zourabichvili, leader of Georgia’s Way, told the rally.

Gubaz Sanikidze of the National Forum told the protesters that by meeting with Parliamentary Chairman Davit Bakradze on May 8 the opposition “took a serious initiative.” 

“They [the authorities] counted on the opposition’s radicalism hoping that we would not have agreed on talks,” he said and added that the opposition had confirmed its readiness for talks and now it was up to the authorities to respond when the President would meet with the opposition.

Asked when the second meeting might take place between negotiators from the authorities and the opposition to arrange talks with the President, a lawmaker from the ruling party, Zurab Melikishvili, told Civil.Ge at about 6:30pm on Saturday: “I cannot say anything for now. A statement will apparently be made later.”

MP Melikishvili was among the group of officials how met with the opposition negotiators on May 8.

Opposition politicians say that even if talks with President Saakashvili take place it will not stop ongoing rallies.

Nino Burjanadze, a former parliamentary speaker and leader of Democratic Movement-United Georgia, told the rally outside the Parliament on May 9, that there should be “no step back in our struggle.”

“Those [opposition politicians], who are addressing you from here have no right to make step back as it will amount to betraying you,” Burjanadze told the protesters. “We will not change our demand and not a single other demand can replace our major demand – resignation of Saakashvili.”

“They [the authorities] even can not tell us an exact date, when the President is ready to meet the opposition,” she continued. “We are waiting for a response today – at what time the meeting will take place. I think this meeting will not take place, because Saakashvili has no enough bravery; but if they have sense of responsibility they should respond to us in next day or two – when and where he will meet the opposition… But I am not going to wait for that response for days and weeks.”

Irakli Alasania, leader of Alliance for Georgia told protesters that “the road towards changes will definitely be successful.”

“The yesterday’s step of the opposition [to meet with the Parliamentary Chairman] was one of the most courageous steps,” Alasania said. “We agreed on the negotiations in order to deliver people’s will to the authorities. Do not forget that we can speak with opponents and during these talks we will prove our truth.”

He also said the protest rallies should maintain “an organized and peaceful nature.”

“We have not taken even one step towards violence. They [the authorities] try to impose violence on us and our peaceful steps are our response to it,” Alasania added.

Levan Gachechiladze, the opposition politician and one of key figures during ongoing protests, said at the rally that talks with the authorities were required in order to prevent “bloodshed” in the process of forcing Saakashvili to resign.

“If the Saakashvili’s repressive regime is not put to an end once and forever peacefully, it will end by force and clashes, but we will not provoke it,” Gachechiladze said.

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