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Ousted Shevardnadze would be welcome, Germany says
( 2003-11-24 13:56) (Reuters)

Eduard Shevardnadze, who resigned as president of Georgia on Sunday, would get a warm welcome in Germany if he came to the country he helped reunite as a Soviet leader, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's spokesman said.

Government spokesman Bela Anda said Germany would be happy to have Shevardnadze, who played a key role in paving the way for West and East Germany to reunite in 1990 when he was foreign minister for the Soviet Union.

"If Eduard Shevardnadze wants to come to Germany he would be welcome on account of all he did to help with the unification of Germany," Anda told Reuters of the man Germany helped with gifts of armour-plated cars to protect him from assassins.

Shevardnadze, long a towering figure in Germany alongside his boss former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, resigned in Tbilisi after opposition protesters stormed parliament and declared a "velvet revolution" in the ex-Soviet republic.

Before he quit, Georgian television had reported the presidential plane was ready to leave at Tbilisi airport, but his spokesman said he would not be leaving Georgia imminently.

Speculation about a possible departure had been stoked by a report in Germany's top-selling daily newspaper Bild on Thursday, which said one of Shevardnadze's aides had bought a luxury villa in a spa town in southern Germany.

When Shevardnadze was asked earlier this year about his plans for eventual retirement, he said he might live in the capital, his home village, or even move to Moscow or Washington.

Making his resignation announcement on television, Shevardnadze gave nothing away: "I am going home," he said.

"Shevardnadze is in the residence with his family and he has no intention of leaving the country, at least tonight," Shevardnadze's spokesman told Reuters.

The German Foreign Ministry in Berlin had no information about Shevardnadze possibly leaving for Germany.


Successive German governments have never forgotten Shevardnadze's skilful role in helping the country win its long-hoped-for reunification despite opposition from some European capitals.

Showing their appreciation, they gave him at least two armour-plated Mercedes cars in the 1990s.

He was given an armoured black Mercedes by Germany in 1995 after he escaped an assassination attempt in earlier that year. That car was involved in another more deadly attack in 1998 in which he escaped unhurt but three men were killed.

A book by Shevardnadze published in Germany in 1998 called "Peace belongs to the future" was a bestseller in Germany.

Among other things, he wrote about the struggle inside the Kremlin about how to respond to the uprising in East Germany before the Berlin Wall was breached in November 1989.

"Should we have sent Soviet tanks in East Germany onto the streets?" he wrote, summing up arguments he opposed.

"A system based exclusively on orders and obedience only leaves room for a monologue at the very top of the hierarchy," he added in the critical look at the system. "It's easier to beat the heads of critics than destroy the ideas they raise."

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