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Tuesday, August 17, 2004

New York Times > Georgia's New Leader Baffles U.S. and Russia Alike

By C. J. CHIVERS

TBILISI, Georgia, Aug. 11 - From the moment he took office in January, Mikhail Saakashvili, the New York-trained lawyer turned president of Georgia, has rushed his nation along an agenda of ambitious design.

Drawing on public support after chasing his predecessor, Eduard A. Shevardnadze, from power, Mr. Saakashvili has moved against corruption, pledged to revive Georgia's economy, steered his government closer to the West and vowed to unify the fractured country.

Georgians have found his energy and momentum compelling. His popularity remains high.

But in recent weeks his populist ride has hit bumps on the central question of the Georgian state: reunification with two breakaway regions, South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

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