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EU hopes for peaceful handover in Georgia after Shevardnadze quits
( 2003-11-24 10:47) (EUbusiness.com)

The European Union hopes Georgia will enjoy a peaceful handover of power, a spokeswoman for EU foreign affairs envoy Javier Solana said Sunday after embattled president Eduard Shevardnadze resigned.

"We wanted this crisis to be solved peacefully and it seems that the situation has gone in that direction," spokeswoman Cristina Gallach told AFP.

"We want a non-violent handover, to be done in a negotiated manner," she added, warning that "the situation remains extremely volatile".

Shevardnadze confirmed his resignation following weeks of protests after a parliamentary election on November 2 that Georgia's opposition and international observers say was rigged in favour of his supporters.

His departure came after Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov held mediation talks in the Georgian capital Tbilisi in a bid to resolve the standoff between opposition leaders and Shevardnadze.

Solana earlier Sunday held telephone talks with Ivanov and the US State Department to coordinate international efforts to end the political crisis peacefully, Gallach said.

The EU announced it was sending its special envoy for the southern Caucasus, Finnish diplomat Heikki Talvitie, to Tbilisi, with the bloc's Italian presidency saying it was watching the unfolding situation "with concern".

But events on the ground moved dramatically fast as Shevardnadze, once the darling of the West during his tenure as Soviet foreign minister under Mikhail Gorbachev, caved in to the opposition.

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