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Baker Accused Of Encouraging Violence In Former Soviet Republic

December 27, 1991

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Newly independent Georgia blames Secretary of State James Baker for fanning the political violence raging in the former Soviet republic.

The accusation is contained in a Dec. 20 letter to Baker from Georgian Foreign Minister Murman Omanidze.

The letter, released Thursday by Georgia’s Information Office in Washington, was prompted by Baker’s speech Dec. 12 at Princeton University, where he said that Georgia was ″undeserving of our acceptance or support.″

Omanidze said Baker’s comments ″seem to be based on a serious lack of factual information and understanding of the true nature of the Georgian government and its people.

″Further, your singling out of Georgia as ‘undeserving of support’ serves to encourage more violence by the armed groups seeking to destabilize our democratic institutions in the belief that they now have the support of the United States for their illegal activity,″ Omanidze said.

The State Department contends that Georgia is governed by despotic rulers with a poor human rights record. It has decided to withhold diplomatic relations with Georgia and five other former Soviet republics pending improvement of their human rights, economic and political performance.

Omanidze said the United States had repeatedly ignored Georgia’s invitations to send fact-finding groups to judge the republic’s performance. He also proposed a U.N. delegation be dispatched to set the record straight.

The department’s press office declined comment on the letter. It said officials from the U.S. Embassy in Moscow travel regularly to Tbilisi, the Georgian capital, and report on conditions there.

Omanidze said Baker was ignoring Georgia’s democratic reforms, including the fact that it was the first Soviet republic to hold multi-party elections, and that it has allowed 134 political parties and 25 opposition newspapers.

His letter was the first public rebuke to the carefully calibrated U.S. policy toward the successors of the Soviet Union, which recognizes Russia as the official heir of the union and grants diplomatic recognition to all the other former republics.

The information office said Baker’s remarks had been widely broadcast by the Georgian-language service of the Voice of America. The foreign ministry immediately filed a protest with the State Department, warning of the violent repercussions to Baker’s remarks, according to the information office.

More than 40 people have been reported killed and 260 wounded in five days of fighting between militants loyal to President Zviad Gamsakhurdia and opposition forces.

Gamsakhurdia won a landslide victory in May’s presidential elections. Since then, his critics have accused him of acting dictatorial, and his power base has eroded.

The State Department said Monday that his ″record on commitment to democratic principles and the international standards of human rights is poor.″ It called on the government and opposition to resolve their differences peacefully.

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