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David Kezerashvili: "Territorial unity remains key goal of Georgia"

14 November 2006 [11:26] - TODAY.AZ
Territorial unity remains the key goal of Georgia, new defense minister David Kezerashvili said in his first televised interview on Sunday.

"In fact, nothing has changed with my appointment as the defense minister and Irakly Okruashvili's new status of the economic development minister. Ill-wishers should have no illusion that something has changed," he told the Tbilisi-based Rustavi 2 television channel.

The minister said he will see in the New Year "in a region of Georgia" but did not give any details. The question was asked in connection with the notorious statement by Okruashvili, who claimed that he would celebrate the New Year 2007 in Tskhinvali. The statement triggered a heated reaction in Georgian and South Ossetian political communities, which wondered how the then minister planned to do that.

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili called on the media and politicians on October 13 not to speculate on the Okruashvili statement that he would be in Tskhinvali on January 1, 2007.

"Okruashvili was born in Tskhinvali. He, the same as everyone who was born and grew up in Tskhinvali, has a right to say he will come there. This is not a matter of geo-policy or preparations for a military campaign. We want peaceful settlement of the conflicts and peaceful unification of this country," Saakashvili told a press briefing back then. "Georgian authorities did not set any deadline for restoring the national unity."

Kezerashvili said his main task was "to finalize the formation of the modern armed forces, so that Georgia could protect its security and interests."

"The Georgian army must be able to perform its mission in the provision of national security and sovereignty," he said.

The new minister admitted that the proposal to take that position was unexpected. "Yet it was not difficult to make the decision. I am accustomed to serving my country wherever it needs me and fulfilling missions entrusted on me by the president," he said.

Okruashvili was appointed as the Economic Development Minister, while Financial Police chief Kezerashvili, 28, became the Defense Minister on Friday.

Kezerashvili is a close associate of President Mikhail Saakashvili and a co-founder of the ruling United National Movement. Georgian officials have praised Kezerashvili many times over the recent years.

He was born in Tbilisi, went to a Russian school and studied in Israel for one year. In 1999 Kezerashvili graduated from the Department of Law and International Relations of Tbilisi State University. He was employed at the Georgian Justice Ministry's Department for Prisons and Penitentiaries in 2001, and headed the ministry's information and analysis department when Saakashvili was the justice minister.

Kezerashvili was an assistant to Saakashvili, the then chief of the Tbilisi city council, in 2002-2003, and became an adviser to the finance minister in early 2004. He was put in charge of the financial police in March 2004, when the agency was formed.

The Georgian parliamentary majority, which is made up of representatives of the ruling United National Movement, support the Cabinet reshuffle.

"The government has made the best choice by appointing David Kezerashvili as the Defense Minister. I am positive that he will successfully develop traditions laid down by Irakly Okruashvili. I also think that Okruashvili will make a good Economic Development Minister," United National Movement co-leader and Chairman of the Parliamentary Defense and Security Committee Givi Targamadze said.

Meanwhile, the opposition explained the new appointment of Okruashvili with his political statements.

"It was easy to predict that Okruashvili won't retain his position as he claimed that he would celebrate the New Year in Tskhinvali," New Right faction co-leader Pikriya Chikhradze said.

Saakashvili described as 'uncustomary' his decision to appoint 28-year-old David Kezerashvili as the defense minister.

"We were thinking about the next defense minister for a long time. I consulted Irakly Okruashvili [the new Economic Development Minister] and Prime Minister Zurab Nogaideli, and decided to appoint David Kezerashvili as the Defense Minister," he said.

"He is young but daring, educated and firm. He displayed high professional and human qualities in the capacity of the financial police chief. Thanks to his perfect performance, budget revenues enlarged and plenty of social and economic projects were implemented," Saakashvili said.

"We fully trust Kezerashvili and think that he will make a perfect defense minister," he said. Itar-Tass


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