Georgian president addreses nation after mob attack

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili on Friday made an emotional appeal for peaceful "cohabitation and cooperation" with the ruling coalition after an angry mob attacked his allies.

"There is no room for vengefulness in Georgia," Saakashvili said, his voice trembling, after some 300 angry protesters surrounded and attacked lawmakers from his United National Movement party.

Calling for "cohabitation and cooperation" with his rival Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili's Georgian Dream coalition, he told a gathering of UNM lawmakers, foreign diplomats and journalists: "I want to express outrage and sorrow over today's events."

Saakashvili had been set to deliver an annual address to parliament, but the legislature dominated by Ivinishvili's coalition refused, demanding that he first accept proposed constitutional amendments curbing his powers.

Saakashvili then changed the address venue to the National Library of Georgia.

But the protesters surrounded and attacked UNM lawmakers outside the building, pummelling Saakashvili allies including Tbilisi Mayor Gigi Ugalava for several minutes before they managed to flee, as police stood by without intervening.

Saakashvili's national security advisor, Giga Bokeria, pointed the finger at the ruling coalition.

"The attack was a shameful act orchestrated by the Georgian Dream," he told AFP.

Following the violence, Saakashvili switched the venue to his presidential palace.

Friday's incident deepened tensions between the president and prime minister.

Dozens of Saakashvili's former officials have been arrested over the last three months for alleged wrongdoings, prompting warnings from top European diplomats over selective justice and persecution of political opponents.

"Not a single lawmaker from the party who was present (outside the National Library) escaped from the mob of attackers without being beaten up," said Chiora Taktakishvili, a lawmaker from Saakashvili's party, who suffered a bloody nose.

"Police were ordered not to protect the members of the parliament," Eka Kherkheulidze, another lawmaker from Saakashvili's party told AFP.

US Ambassador to Georgia Richard Norland, speaking later at the president's palace told journalists: "We condemn this violence, and those who committed these crimes must be prosecuted."

Sweden's Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said on Twitter: "Worrying that majority blocks President from delivering traditional address to Parliament of Georgia. Mutual respect is key to democracy."

Georgia's interior ministry announced an investigation into the incident and vowed to bring those responsible to justice.

Fervently pro-Western Saakashvili came to power after the Rose Revolution that shook the country in late 2003.

His party lost legislative elections to Ivanishvili's coalition in October, after which the prime minister called on the president to resign.

Ivanishvili withdrew the call as the international community warned over mounting tensions in the uneasy political partnership.

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