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Georgia shrugs off Abkhazian president's threat to fire on ships

RIA Novosti

14:36 02/09/2009 TBILISI, September 2 (RIA Novosti) - Georgia's deputy prime minister dismissed on Wednesday the Abkhazian president's order to fire upon any Georgian ship violating the maritime border of Abkhazia as a "pre-election bluff."

Abkhaz Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba said earlier Wednesday that Abkhazia was ready to resort to force as President Sergei Bagapsh had given the order "to open fire on Georgian ships if they continue their acts of piracy."

"First of all, they have no technical means to destroy ships, and moreover it is not his [Bagapsh's] business. It looks more like a pre-election bluff," Temur Yakobashvili said, adding that "if someone is capable of destroying vessels, then it is Russia."

He also said Georgia would continue to seize ships that violate the borders of what it calls occupied territories. Tbilisi considers Abkhazia and its waters part of Georgian territory, and as part of efforts to isolate the republic has declared any unauthorized shipments of goods to be illegal.

Last month Georgia seized the Panama-flagged Buket tanker and its cargo as it was carrying over 2,000 of gasoline and 770 metric tons of diesel to Abkhazia from Turkey. Tbilisi accused the Turkish company operating the Buket of smuggling and violating the ban on unauthorized economic activity in Abkhazia.

Bagapsh told local media that Abkhazia would take "appropriate measures" if Georgia continued seizing ships with cargo intended for the republic.

The president is running for re-election in polls scheduled for December 12.

On August 26, the republic celebrated the first anniversary of Russia's recognition of its independence. So far Nicaragua is the only other country to have recognized it and South Ossetia, another former Georgian republic.


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