Georgian Leader Announces New "Revolution"

Mikhail Saakashvili, President of Georgia, addresses the 63rd session of the United Nations General Assembly Sept. 23 2008 at the United Nations. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
AP Photo/Julie Jacobson
Georgia's president announced a major government overhaul Tuesday, calling it a "Second Rose Revolution" to guard against Russian encroachment following last month's war between the two countries.

In a speech before the U.N. General Assembly, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili said expanded democratic initiatives will include stronger checks and balances in government, more independence for Parliament and the judiciary, and increased funding for opposition parties.

"We will, in short, fight the specter of aggression and authoritarianism with the most potent weapons in our arsenal - namely, our commitment to ever-expanding freedoms within our borders," Saakashvili said. "This amounts to nothing less than a 'Second Rose Revolution."'

Saakashvili said opposition parties also would have greater access to the airwaves. He pledged that the nation's laws would be strengthened, too, by introducing "enhanced" due process, jury trials and lifetime judicial appointments. Finally, he promised to "expand and deepen protections of private property."

Georgia's first "Rose Revolution" in 2003 displaced President Eduard Shevardnadze without bloodshed.

While the first revolution was about heading off "a threat from within by reinventing a failed state riddled by corruption, our second revolution must be even more focused, as now we face an even greater challenge, one that comes from the outside," Saakashvili added.

Much of the Georgian leader's speech Tuesday focused on countering what he called "the violence and tactics that subverted state sovereignty in Georgia" which, if unchecked, "will spread to other parts of the world."

War erupted between Georgia and Russia last month when Georgia launched an attack to regain control over South Ossetia. Russia sent in troops who quickly routed the Georgian forces and pushed deep into Georgia.

Russia has been deepening its relations with Georgia's two breakaway regions, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, despite the United States' increased warnings that Russia is isolating itself among the international community. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed separate treaties with the two regions, guaranteeing them protection in case of attack and allowing Russia to build military bases there.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is scheduled to address the General Assembly on Saturday afternoon.

U.S. President George W. Bush, hoping to shore up its beleaguered Georgian ally, told the General Assembly that Russia had violated the U.N. charter by invading its neighbor.

"The United Nations' charter sets forth the equal rights of nations large and small," he said. "Russia's invasion of Georgia was a violation of those words."

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said earlier this month that Russia does not intend to encroach on the sovereignty of Georgia or other former Soviet Republics, and that Russia had to act after Georgia attacked South Ossetia on Aug. 7. Putin also said that the West was wrong to claim Russia has imperial ambitions.

Tensions between Georgia and Russia remain high, evidenced by Georgia saying Tuesday it had shot down a Russian drone over its territory near South Ossetia. Russia's Defense Ministry dismissed the report as a "provocation."

Moscow has kept nearly 8,000 troops in Georgia's two separatist areas and plans to station them there indefinitely. Russia pledged to withdraw its forces from Georgian areas outside South Ossetia and Abkhazia once 200 European Union observers are in place. The EU mission is to deploy by Oct. 1.

But Moscow has refused to let the EU monitors into Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which it recognized as independent nations after the war. It also has balked at letting more monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe into South Ossetia, the site of heavy looting and burning of Georgian homes.