Source AP ©

Georgia to lift state of emergency under US pressure

Pressured by the United States, Georgian government will cancel the state of emergency on Friday.

"The state of emergency will be lifted on Nov. 16, and we will switch to a normal life," Nino Burdzhanadze, a close ally of Georgia's President Mikhail Saakashvili, said in parliament Wednesday.

Saakashvili introduced the 15-day nationwide state of emergency on Nov. 7 after police violently dispersed opposition protests in the capital. The United States and other Western nations have strongly urged Saakashvili to quickly remove the measure, which banned independent newscasts.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Bryza said Tuesday after talking to the Georgian leadership and opposition in Tbilisi that he had been given official assurances that the state of emergency would be lifted Friday. By naming a date, Bryza appeared to increase pressure on Saakashvili to act.

Saakashvili has previously accused Moscow of attempting to overthrow his government by staging the recent opposition protests, and said the crackdown was necessary to prevent the country from sliding into chaos.

He defended the measure this week by saying that Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened to divide the nation permanently along ethnic lines.

Russian officials have repeatedly denied claims of interference into Georgian affairs, and the Georgian opposition angrily rejected Saakashvili's claims of its Moscow links.