Georgian Opposition Rejects Saalakshvili Offers, Maintains Resignation Demands

TBILISI, Georgia (AP) — President Mikhail Saakashvili said Wednesday that he has offered government posts to political opponents who have been leading street protests for the past two months. But opposition leaders said they have no interest in joining Saakashvili’s government and would continue their protests to demand his resignation.

The president met into the early hours of Wednesday with opposition leader Levan Gachechiladze in an effort to resolve the standoff.

Gachechiladze told reporters afterward that Saakashvili was not interested in any compromise with the opposition and called on the demonstrators to step up their peaceful protests.

Speaking later Wednesday during a televised government meeting, Saakashvili said he had offered the opposition the posts of deputy interior minister and deputy justice minister, as well as seats on the national security council.

The president said the government’s task was to integrate the opposition into the government and “show that we are part of one system.”

“Let’s build Georgian democracy together,” Saakashvili said.

Gachechiladze had not mentioned the president’s offer of government posts. Another opposition leader, Georgy Khaindrava, said the opposition would not join Saakashvili’s government.

Opposition forces have protested daily since April 9. They blame Saakashvili for Georgia’s humiliating defeat in last year’s war with Russia and accuse him of failing to deliver his promised democratic reforms.

Georgia’s location astride a key energy route has made it a focus of geopolitical rivalry between Russia and the West.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Phillip Gordon visited Tbilisi on Wednesday to hold meetings with government officials and representatives of the opposition. The United States has kept a close watch on Georgia since the August war, and Washington’s envoys to the region visit frequently.

Like other Western countries, the U.S. has been a strong advocate of Georgia’s territorial integrity and rejects the independence of two breakaway regions there: South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

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