Georgia parliament votes to lift emergency rule

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TBILISI, Nov 15 (Reuters) - Georgia's parliament today approved lifting its state of emergency at 7 2030 HRS IST today allowing people to meet in public and independent media to broadcast.

But the former Soviet state's main opposition broadcaster, Imedi, will remain closed because authorities revoked its licence after police raided its office last week. The Georgian government accused Imedi of trying to incite a revolution.

Today's parliamentary vote was won with 153 lawmakers in support and two against. Parliamentary authorities had earlier said there was 152 in favour.

The United States and European Union have told Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili to end the emergency rule he imposed last Wednesday after police crushed street protests with rubber bullets, teargas and baton charges.

Pro-Western Saakashvili, who advocates membership of NATO and the European Union, faces the worst political crisis since a bloodless uprising propelled him to power in 2003.

The opposition is also largely pro-Western but accuses Saakashvili of betraying the democratic principles of the so-called ''Rose Revolution''.

Facing a barrage of Western complaints that he was cracking down on democratic freedoms, Saakashvili last week called a presidential election for January 5 to try to defuse the tension with the opposition.

He has accused his giant northern neighbour and former imperial master Russia of fomenting unrest in his Caucasus nation of 5 million. Russia dismissed the accusation.

Saakashvili's response to the opposition protests has damaged his credentials as a champion of democracy and dismayed his Western allies.

REUTERS PY VC2110

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