Rally Seeks Saakashvili's Resignation

TBILISI, Georgia — Thousands of opposition activists and supporters of a wanted former security minister rallied in the Georgian capital on Thursday to call for the resignation of President Mikheil Saakashvili and his government.

With tensions mounting and residents growing impatient with persistent poverty and the slow pace of economic growth, the opposition Justice party and a loose coalition of parties called the anti-Soros movement have held regular anti-government protests.

Anti-Soros activists accuse the foundation of U.S. billionaire philanthropist George Soros of funding the 2003 Rose Revolution that brought Saakashvili to power.

"The country is ending up at some unknown place. The people's condition is getting worse. Prices are growing at a wild pace. And Saakashvili only knows how to blame Russia for everything, while he cruises to different countries," said Manana Sakvarelidze, one of the estimated 2,000 people who demonstrated outside a Tbilisi concert hall. Some protestors carried banners that read, "Saakashvili Resign!"

Among those rallying Thursday were backers of former State Security Minister Igor Giorgadze, who is wanted in Georgia for suspected involvement in an assassination attempt on Saakashvili's predecessor, Eduard Shevardnadze.

Senior Russian officials have recently said Giorgadze could be granted political asylum, a move that would further roil already testy relations between Moscow and Tbilisi. Giorgadze said Wednesday that he did not need asylum.

Supporters called on the government to allow Giorgadze, who arrived in Moscow on Wednesday after traveling in several unspecified countries, to be allowed to return to Georgia.

Saakashvili has sought to reduce Russian influence and move his nation toward closer integration with the United States and the West in general. He frequently rails against Moscow, accusing it of interfering with Georgian internal affairs.