Image: Georgian opposition leader Nino Burdzhanadze
Shakh Aivazov  /  AP
Georgian opposition leader Nino Burdzhanadze crosses herself during a rally in Tbilisi, Georgia, Sunday, April 12.
updated 4/12/2009 12:47:01 PM ET 2009-04-12T16:47:01

Some 2,000 demonstrators demanded the Georgian president's resignation Sunday, protesting for the fourth straight day as most opposition leaders said talks to end the standoff were no longer an option.

Opposition leaders had announced a one-day halt to their persistent street protests as the mostly Orthodox Christian country celebrates Palm Sunday.

But President Mikhail Saakashvili's opponents returned to the street outside parliament, angered by a late-night attack on the opposition's computer and sound equipment at the demonstration site. Nino Burdzhanadze, a top opposition leader, blamed the attack on Saakashvili's supporters, including members of his party's youth group.

"The government of this country is not civilized," Burdzhanadze, a former speaker of parliament and Saakashvili ally, told the crowd. "The people are, but the government is not, and with this uncivilized government there can be no dialogue and there will be no dialogue. There will be only one demand: the president's resignation."

Investigation was under way
Interior Ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili said no party members, police or government personnel were involved in the attack. An investigation was under way, he said.

Saakashvili has vowed to serve out his second term, which ends in 2013, and has urged opposition leaders to discuss their grievances.

In recent days, they had held out the possibility of talks as long as certain conditions were met, though they did not appear to agree on what those conditions were.

The confusion continued Sunday when Irakly Alasania, another opposition leader, said the proposal for talks still stood. Alasania, Georgia's former ambassador to the United Nations, spoke during an appearance on a local television channel with other opposition leaders after Sunday's demonstration.

But the opposition leaders who spoke at the rally said talks were now out of the question.

Talks are opposed by many of the protesters, who have jeered loudly at any suggestion of compromise.

"Yesterday's action once again showed that there is nothing to talk about with Saakashvili," said Irakly Siradze, 34. "He must resign — and we will achieve this."

Declining number of demonstrators
The number of demonstrators has declined steadily since Thursday, when tens of thousands turned out. But demonstrators still managed to shut down main streets in the capital on Friday and Saturday as they marched on the president's residence and the state television center.

Opposition leaders said the protests would resume Monday with renewed energy.

The protesters are most angry with Saakashvili over his handling of the brief war last summer with Russia. The Georgian army fled ahead of invading Russian troops, and the country lost territory as separatists and their Russian allies took full control of two breakaway Georgian regions.

The protesters also accuse the president of concentrating power in his hands and embarrassing his countrymen by his erratic behavior.

Saakashvili still has a solid base of support, especially outside of the capital. Since taking office five years ago, he has overseen significant economic growth, although he faces criticism for not doing enough to help the poor and create jobs.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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