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Massive protests target Georgia's Saakashvili

The president resists demands to leave office as some wonder if revolution is in the air.

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Tens of thousands of Georgians protested peacefully in front of the country's Parliament Thursday to demand the resignation of Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili.

At times, the demonstrations echoed the 2003 "Rose Revolution" protest movement that toppled the former regime of Eduard Shevardnadze and ushered Mr. Saakashvili into power. Opposition leaders are now demanding that Saakashvili resign by Friday.

"This is not a revolution. It is another demonstration of the Georgian people's peaceful will to seek democracy," says Salome Zourabichvili, former foreign minister and leader of the Georgia's Way party.

Yet the line between revolution and massive public protest can be murky. Ms. Zourabichvili stated earlier that the opposition wouldn't hold talks with Saakashvili until he resigned.

Saakashvili, who was reelected last year, has made no indications that he is planning to leave office before his term ends in 2013. The pro-Western leader issued a statement, however, that called for unity. "We should stick together despite different opinions. We must continue to develop as a democratic country."

The protest was held on the 20th anniversary of the April 9 massacre, during which Soviet forces killed 20 Georgians who had demonstrated against the USSR's control of the country. Georgia gained independence two years later.


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