Georgian Ministers Dismissed

TBILISI, Georgia — Georgia's defense minister and foreign minister were ousted Friday in a shake-up some observers saw as reflecting dissatisfaction with the West as the country struggles to recover from its war with Russia.

The new foreign minister, Grigol Vashadze, lived and worked in Moscow for many years. His appointment is being interpreted as an attempt by President Mikheil Saakashvili's government to improve relations with Russia.

But Saakashvili said in televised comments that the changes were necessary because Georgia "is now situated under the double weight of the financial crisis and the results of the Russian aggression." Saakashvili urged new Prime Minister Grigol Mgaloblishvili to give other jobs to the outgoing ministers, whom he called "highly qualified and patriots of Georgia."

Mgaloblishvili, who became prime minister last month, announced the dismissals of Defense Minister David Kezerashvili and Foreign Minister Eka Tkeshelashvili, as well as of the ministers of education and culture.

Interior Minister Alexander Lomaia, who commands the country's police force, said he too was stepping down for a diplomatic job, and a source said Georgia's UN ambassador had resigned.

Vashadze, 50, was until Friday the culture minister. A veteran diplomat, he served in the Soviet Foreign Ministry in the 1980s. Kezerashvili, who had served as defense minister since November 2006, will be replaced by one of his deputies, Batu Kutelia.

AP, Reuters