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ArmenianLiberty: Kocharian Mourns Georgian PM’s Death

President Robert Kocharian offered on Thursday his condolences in connection
with the death of Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania in an apparent gas
poisoning.

Zhvania, 41, was reportedly found dead near a gas heater at a friend’s apartment
in Tbilisi early in the morning. “It was a gas poisoning,” Interior Minister
Vano Merabishvili told Georgian television.

“Zurab Zhvania made a great contribution to the state-building and strengthening
of democracy in brotherly Georgia,” Kocharian said in a letter to his Georgian
counterpart Mikhail Saakashvili. “Also invaluable was his role in the deepening
of the centuries-old friendship between our peoples.”

Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian, meanwhile, cancelled a planned visit to
Tbilisi where he was due to attend a major international conference on the South
Caucasus. He was scheduled to meet with the Georgian premier late on Thursday.
Oskanian was on his way to the Georgian capital when he heard news of Zhvania’s
bizarre death.

“Words are not enough to express the depth of the loss,” he said in a statement.
“Our effective cooperation with Zhvania has a long history. “Being a
broad-minded politician, Zhvania distinguished himself with in-depth knowledge
of regional developments and prospects.”

Zhvania was one of the top leaders of Georgia’s November 2003 “revolution of
roses” that swept Saakashvili to power. Armenian leaders say the Western-backed
popular revolt and the Saakashvili administration’s ensuing crackdown on
corruption have had a positive impact on Georgian-Armenian economic ties.

A former protégé of the deposed President Eduard Shevardnadze, Zhvania was born
to an ethnic Armenian mother — a fact which some of his political foes tried to
use against him. “Yes, my mother is Armenian and I’m proud of that,” he declared
in the Georgian parliament a year ago in response to a query about his ethnic
origin.

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