Georgian opposition awaits Saakashvili interview

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TBILISI, Nov 4 (Reuters) Up to 10,000 Georgians demonstrated for a third day against Presidential Mikhail Saakashvili today, accusing him of authoritarian rule and demanding his resignation.

Some 70,000 had rallied in front of Georgia's parliament building yesterday, calling for a parliamentary election to be brought forward to early 2008 as a step to abolishing the presidency. By Saturday, opposition activists were mounting pressure for Saakashvili to step down.

Saakashvili will be alert to the political dangers of mass demonstrations in the volatile ex-Soviet republic. He himself came to power in a 2003 ''Rose Revolution'' that forced President Eduard Shevardnadze out of office; but there is now some disillusionment with low living standards.

''Where is our president? Why he is hiding?'' David Berdzenishvili, a leader of the Republican Party, said at the rally. ''He hasn't shown up for several days because he is afraid of his own people, he is afraid to look into people's eyes.'' Saakashvili, who denies accusations of human rights abuses, was scheduled to give an interview on a public television station today's evening.

President George W Bush has described the southern Caucasus republic, strategically placed, and a transit territory for fuel supplies from the Caspian area, as a ''beacon of democracy''.

One member of the parliamentary majority, Guguli Magradze appealed to colleagues to meet opposition demand and make a decision on early parliamentary election.

''There is a very tense situation in the country. That's why we should do our best to ease it and to find a solution...I think that the demand for parliamentary elections in spring next year is appropriate,'' Magradze told journalists.

Georgia was shaken by a civil war in the early 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union and faces separatist rebellions in some of its regions that are straining relations with its powerful former imperial master, Russia..

Reuters NY DB2356

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