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US extends support to Georgian government
( 2003-11-24 10:47) (AP)

The United States offered its support Sunday to the interim leadership of Georgia after a tumultuous weekend, during which the president of the former Soviet republic resigned as his opposition threatened to storm his residence.

Secretary of State Colin Powell called opposition figure Nino Burdzhanadze, who will lead an interim government until new elections can be held, "to offer our support and to encourage her and her colleagues to proceed in a manner consistent with Georgia's Constitution," said State Department spokesman Richard Boucher.

Boucher praised outgoing Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze. "We know that President Shevardnadze's decision was difficult, but that he made his decision in the best interests of the people of Georgia," Boucher said. "President Shevardnadze has been a towering figure in Georgian history and a close friend of the United States."

Powell spoke to Shevardnadze on Sunday, Boucher said, "and thanked him for his role in bringing this crisis to a peaceful resolution."

The Bush administration had been highly critical of Shevardnadze's government in the three weeks since supporters of the president were declared winners of parliamentary elections.

The administration said Thursday the official results of the election "do not accurately reflect the will of the Georgian people" and said the polling was marred by "massive vote fraud."

On Sunday, Boucher said: "The people of Georgia have heard the call of (opposition leader) Mikhail Saakashvili and his colleagues in the opposition to move to a new stage in Georgian politics.

"We look forward to working with Interim President Burdzhanadze in her effort to maintain the integrity of Georgia's democracy as she strives to ensure that this change in government follows the constitution," said Boucher. "The United States and the international community stand ready to support the new government in holding free and fair parliamentary elections in the future."

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