Georgian ex-minister recants crime allegations

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TBILISI, Oct 8 (Reuters) Georgian ex-defence minister Irakly Okruashvili, in a statement broadcast on television today, withdrew allegations that President Mikhail Saakashvili was corrupt and had plotted a businessman's murder.

''I do not confirm these facts and I made these statements to reap political dividends. These statements were made to discredit President Saakashvili,'' Okruashvili, who is awaiting trial on corruption charges, was shown on Georgian television telling an investigator.

Okruashvili's allegations and his subsequent arrest prompted the biggest anti-government protests in ex-Soviet Georgia since a 2003 bloodless revolution swept Saakashvili to power.

The affair spurred the splintered opposition to unite into an anti-Saakashvili coalition that analysts say could challenge him in parliamentary and presidential elections to take place next year.

Deputy Prosecutor-General Nika Gvaramia told a news briefing that Okruashvili, previously a leading figure in Saakashvili's administration, would be released from prison pending his trial if he posts bail.

''He will be released on bail worth 10 million lari (6 million dollars). For the time being he will remain in custody and will be released once the bail has been paid.'' Late last month, Okruashvili accused Saakashvili of corrupt dealings and alleged he had discussed murdering a prominent Georgian businessman. The Georgian president said the allegations were ''all lies''.

REUTERS PD BD1630

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