Georgia Will Lift TV Ban

TBISILI, Georgia -- The Georgian government will lift a ban on opposition television station Imedi, acting President Nino Burjanadze said Monday, a key demand of Georgia's Western allies ahead of a Jan. 5 presidential election.

Police raided Imedi's office Nov. 7, after forcing anti-government protesters off the streets of Tbilisi with tear gas and rubber bullets. The authorities said the television station, majority owned by presidential aspirant Badri Patarkatsishvili, had been calling for revolution.

"We have made a decision to ask the Prosecutor General's Office to abolish a ban on Imedi," Nino Burjanadze said at a news briefing. "We hope all the procedures will be completed in two days and that Imedi will be able to start broadcasting again."

Western critics say the vote could not be considered fair if Imedi, the largest opposition broadcaster, was banned. They immediately welcomed Burjanadze's statement.

"This is a very positive statement," the European Union's special representative to the South Caucasus, Peter Semneby, said at a news briefing. "It means the presidential campaign can start without the question mark regarding media freedom."

Multimillionaire and opposition financier Patarkatsishvili has applied to run in the presidential election but faces accusations at home that he plotted a coup against President Mikheil Saakashvili, who stepped down over the weekend to campaign for the vote.