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* Eduard Shevardnadze declared that he was quitting as Georgia's leader during a heated parliamentary debate on Sept. 14 over the imposition of emergency rule in the troubled former Soviet republic.

President Shevardnadze's office could not immediately confirm whether the former Soviet foreign minister actually was resigning -

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as he has threatened to do several times before - or simply playing hard-ball politics with lawmakers. There was no formal announcement of his resignation, his office said, and the parliament did not give formal approval of the resignation.

If true, Shevardnadze's resignation could throw the nation of 5.5 million people into deeper political turmoil. The Tbilisi government is already contending with at least two separatist movements and a simmering insurrection led by former President Zviad Gamsakhurdia.

Shevardnadze, who returned to lead his native Georgia after Mr. Gamsakhurdia was ousted in 1992, erupted in anger at legislators who questioned his request for a state of emergency to crack down on Gamsakhurdia's followers. ``In these conditions, I don't see any sense in remaining as head of state and I am resigning,'' he said, then walked out of the chamber.

Shevardnadze pulled off a similar surprise move in December 1990 when, as Soviet foreign minister, he abruptly resigned during a speech to the parliament in which he warned of a ``creeping dictatorship.''

Georgia lawmakers seemed surprised and uncertain whether Shevardnadze actually had quit. They called a break in their session, but several meandered around the chamber wondering what would happen next.

Outside the parliament building, several hundred people gathered demanding the lawmakers vacate the chamber and that Shevardnadze remain as president, according to the independent Georgian news agency Iprinda.

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