Saakashvili Replaces Premier

TBILISI, Georgia -- Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili named a new prime minister Monday, saying the country needed "new energy" to tackle challenges after the war with Russia.

Saakasvhili, under pressure after the crushing military defeat in August, asked the parliament to approve Grigol Mgaloblishvili, Georgia's Oxford-educated ambassador to Turkey, to replace the reformist Lado Gurgenidze.

Saakashvili told a televised meeting with parliamentary deputies that he and Gurgenidze had made a "joint decision," saying constitutional amendments obliged the president to name a new prime minister after parliamentary elections held in May.

He told a later meeting of majority leaders that Gurgenidze's departure had been planned before the war, in which Russian troops repelled a Georgian military bid to retake the breakaway South Ossetia region. "When Lado was appointed a year ago, he told me he would be able to do this just for one year," Saakashvili said, sitting beside Gurgenidze. "Now, we face new challenges.

"New power and new energy are needed to address these challenges. Our economy is under twin assault -- from the global financial crisis and the Russian aggression."

Gurgenidze said it was "a joint, consensual decision."

He told Reuters, "I have no doubt about the continuity of liberal economic policies in Georgia, which have driven Georgia's success over recent years."

Officials said Mgaloblishvili, 35, would reveal his new Cabinet before a parliamentary debate, a date for which has yet to be announced. Saakashvili said there would be no radical changes to the Cabinet.

Gurgenidze, a 37-year-old technocrat and former banker, became prime minister in November 2007 with the task of attracting foreign investment and maintaining economic growth.

Separately, Nino Burjanadze, a former Saakashvili ally who split with him this year, told reporters that she would form her own party to challenge the government. "We have an authoritarian regime in Georgia rather than a democratic state," she said.