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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Patarkatsishvili Says He'll Run

TBILISI, Georgia -- A Georgian tycoon who has announced his intention to challenge Mikheil Saakashvili for the presidency has urged the West to intervene to force an end to the state of emergency and ensure a free election.

Badri Patarkatsishvili said in a statement from abroad that he would run in the Jan. 5 vote if the fragmented opposition were unable field a single candidate.

"The West, particularly the United States, carries a special responsibility. I'm asking the nations [that are] friends of Georgia to help protect democracy," Patarkatsishvili said.

"Now not only Georgians, but the entire world has realized what democracy in Saakashvili style means."

It was unclear whether Patarkatsishvili would be able to campaign. He is believed to be in Israel, and prosecutors said he was under investigation for plotting to overthrow the government.

Patarkatsishvili is seen as a driving force behind anti-government protests in Georgia that led Saakashvili to introduce a 15-day nationwide state of emergency on Wednesday, hours after police clubbed and tear-gassed opposition protesters in the capital, Tbilisi.

Independent broadcasters' news reports have been taken off the air, which opposition leaders claim prevents them from campaigning.

Envoys from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe urged Saakashvili to allow broadcast media to resume operations.

The incidents have raised doubts about the U.S.-allied Saakashvili's commitments to democracy and drawn strong criticism in the West.

Saakashvili, who sought to shed Russia's influence and integrate Georgia into the West, has defended the crackdown on protesters and the state of emergency order as a necessary response to what he described as a coup attempt staged by Moscow. Russia angrily rejected the allegations and the Georgian opposition denied having any links to the Kremlin.

The violent dispersal of opposition rallies and Saakashvili's emergency order drew sharp criticism from the West and warnings that it could harm efforts to integrate Georgia into the European Union and NATO.

A senior U.S. diplomat said ahead of a Sunday meeting with Saakashvili that he would express concern about the violence that forced independent television channels off the air.

"The reports that we are starting to get now are that things went beyond a textbook policing operation," Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew J. Bryza said. "We are hearing more and more reports that people were grabbed from stores or that passersby were beaten. Things got out of control."