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New Georgian Defense Minister Vows to Prevent Bloodshed

September 13, 1991 GMT

TBILISI, U.S.S.R. (AP) _ Georgia’s new defense minister appeared Friday to distance himself from the the republic’s embattled president by pledging not to use force against unarmed civilians.

Nodar Giorgadze also said that if any more blood is spilled, he will join with the maverick chief of the national guard to punish those responsible.

″There will be no armed conflict and we will both see that no one disturbs the peace,″ Giorgadze said in an interview.

President Zviad Gamsakhurdia named Giorgadze as acting head of a new defense ministry he established Monday in an apparent move against the leader’s critic, national guard chief Tengiz Kitovani.

But Giorgadze and Kitovani forged an alliance. They met Thursday and agreed on reducing tensions created by 12 days of noisy street demonstrations aimed at forcing Gamsakhurdia to resign.

On Friday, Giorgadze affirmed his loyalty to the president, but indicated he would not obey orders to attack the national guard.

″If there is any shooting, Kitovani and I will be on the same side of the barricade,″ he said. ″As a citizen of Georgia, I have no other course.″

Kitovani, interviewed later, endorsed Giorgadze’s remarks.

The embattled president has called Kitovani an agent of the Kremlin and a traitor.

Tensions mounted after Sept. 2, when Georgian troops under the Interior Ministry fired into a crowd, wounding five people.

Giorgadze said his new Defense Ministry has 5,000 troops, including national guard members who remained loyal to Gamsakhurdia and other units recently brought under arms.

He would not elaborate on the Sept. 2 shootings because an investigation was pending. But, he said, Interior Ministry troops had acted wrongly by shooting at unarmed civilians. ″It will never happen again,″ he vowed.

Both commanders described their tasks as maintaining stability while Georgia’s political crisis plays itself out in parliament and on the streets.

In Tbilisi’s streets Friday, tension was evident. Rustaveli Avenue, a main city artery, remained sectioned by barricades.

Gamsakhaurdia was elected by a wide margin in May, but opponents say he has since revealed himself incapable of governing.

Kitovani, an artist until he turned military officer several years ago, took the guard under his own command on Aug. 23, saying later that Gamsakhurdia betrayed him by trying to dissolve the guard on the first day of the attempted coup in Moscow.