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Georgia PM backs inquiry into president over 2008 war

Last Updated: Wednesday, April 10, 2013 - 19:40

Tbilisi: Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili on Wednesday backed opening an inquiry into President Mikheil Saakashvili`s handling of the brief war Tbilisi fought in August 2008 with Russia.

The comments by the billionaire Ivanishivili -- in office since his party`s parliamentary election win last year -- are set to ratchet up tensions in the uneasy cohabitation between the two men.

An investigation "would not damage Georgia`s or the previous government`s image. We must know what happened," Ivanishvili told reporters, accusing Saakashvili of behaving "inadequately" in the conflict.

"Questioning by a court is a civilised norm and, if need be, the president should understand this. It is a normal method that a president could be questioned in court."

Ivanishvili`s comments came days after his justice minister said that a comprehensive probe into the circumstances of the 2008 war was Georgia`s obligation before international organisations.

The premier said it was "unjustified" that Georgian armed forces started fighting before Russia crossed the border and it could have been possible to defuse the conflict with international monitors.

"The theme of the (2008 Russia-Georgia) war is shrouded in mystery. I personally have many questions," Ivanishvili said.

"I think that our then government, led by our president, behaved inadequately in that situation."

Russia and Georgia clashed when Saakashvili`s military attempt to reassert control over Moscow-backed South Ossetia was crushed by Russian troops who pushed deep into Georgian territory.

After the war that stunned the West, Russia recognised South Ossetia and the fellow rebel region of Abkhazia as independent, a move that has been followed by only a handful of other far-flung states.

An investigation commissioned by the European Union said in 2009 that Tbilisi was responsible for triggering the war.

But it also accused Moscow of provoking the conflict, of violating international law and of reacting disproportionately by invading and bombing swathes of Georgian territory.

Since the October 2012 election, which saw Saakashvili`s United National Movement party defeated by Ivanishvili`s Georgian Dream coalition, the two leaders have gone through a tense political stand-off.


First Published: Wednesday, April 10, 2013 - 19:39

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