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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08TBILISI195 2008-02-06 13:31 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

DE RUEHSI #0195/01 0371331
P 061331Z FEB 08

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 000195 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/01/2017 
Classified By: Ambassador John F. Tefft for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
1. (C) Summary:  Kosovo and the upcoming parliamentary 
elections will likely dominate your meeting with President 
Saakashvili at the Wehrkunde conference.  Kosovo is nearly 
certain to be the first issue on Saakashvili's agenda, as he 
seeks more information about the timing of an independence 
declaration and further re-assurance that the West is sending 
strong signals to Russia not to retaliate by recognizing 
Abkhazia and/or South Ossetia.  On elections, opposition 
leaders are meeting with Speaker Burjanadze and her team to 
negotiate the opposition's demands laid forth on January 28. 
USAID has allocated USD 5.8 million toward election 
assistance to Georgia in 2008.  Areas targeted for 
improvement this Spring include the election code, training 
of election officials at all levels and improving ballot 
counting procedures.  Your meeting will be a timely 
opportunity to reiterate that, given the aftermath of the 
presidential election, the parliamentary elections offer 
Saakashvili his best opportunity for the foreseeable future 
to assure the international community of Georgia's democratic 
bona fides.  The closer the elections are to being truly free 
and fair, the better for Georgia and its aspirations to join 
NATO.  Saakashvili will also ask for Washington's latest news 
on the prospects for MAP at Bucharest or later.  He may also 
express concern about Iranian threats resulting from the 
extradition of an accused Iranian arms dealer from Georgia to 
the United States.  We have told the GOG we will follow its 
lead on responding to such threats or adverse publicity 
stemming from the incident.  End Summary. 
2. (C) As we get closer to the Kosovo endgame, Saakashvili's 
anxiety that Russia will respond to international recognition 
of Kosovo by recognizing Abkhazia, and perhaps South Ossetia, 
has only grown.  Georgian officials remain divided about 
whether Russia would actually do it, but Defense Minister 
Kezerashvili made clear in a recent meeting with DAS Bryza 
(reftel) that he believes the Russians have promoted the 
prospect so much that they cannot back down.  Russian 
officials' recent public statements, such as Foreign Minister 
Lavrov's comment that Russia would not recognize Abkhazia 
"immediately," have done nothing to reassure the Georgians. 
Russia may not be alone: new Foreign Minister Bakradze (whom 
you met last November) told the Ambassador February 4 that 
the Iranians are now privately threatening to recognize 
Abkhazia after Georgia's recent (and thus far unpublicized) 
extradition of an Iranian arms dealer to the U.S.  If Russia 
recognizes Abkhazia, Saakashvili will come under huge 
domestic pressure to do something to stop the permanent loss 
of Abkhazia.  Pressure will be even greater if recognition is 
accompanied by a new round of violence involving the ethnic 
Georgians in the Gali region.  Saakashvili understands the 
U.S. position on Kosovo and recalls your several 
conversations on the subject, but he will be eager for more 
detail on the expected timing, and most of all he will want 
to see that we are doing all we can to make clear to the 
Russians that such a step would do serious damage to their 
relationship with the West. 
3. (U) Behind-the-scenes negotiations continue regarding the 
coming parliamentary elections, which will likely take place 
in May.  Parliamentary Speaker Nino Burjanadze and Deputy 
Speaker Mikheil Machavariani are leading the talks with the 
United National Council of Opposition (UNC).  The UNC is also 
coordinating with (non-members) the New Rightists and Labor 
parties regarding the negotiations.  The opposition factions 
in Parliament are boycotting all proceedings except the 
ongoing negotiations and any unforeseen national security 
crises.  At the same time, the opposition is already 
beginning to fragment, with the Republicans recently deciding 
to run a separate party list in the parliamentary election. 
4. (U) On February 5, Conservative party MP and UNC member, 
Zviad Dzidziguri, announced a new series of public protests 
to begin on February 7.  The protests will include posters 
showing those who "stole" votes in January and also allow 
people to sign a petition saying they did not vote for 
Saakashvili.  Burjanadze responded publicly that the 
government is negotiating with the opposition and "there is 
no need for protests now."  Nevertheless, Saakashvili must 
support Burjanadze and take a flexible approach to dealing 
TBILISI 00000195  002 OF 002 
with the opposition. 
Parliamentary Elections 
5. (C) USAID has allocated USD 5.8 million for election 
assistance to Georgia in 2008.  USG initiatives to improve 
the election process extend the commitments undertaken for 
the presidential ele
ction.  Continuing efforts focus on three 
6. (C) First, the election code needs to be simplified and 
finalized well in advance of the election.  Time to revise it 
completely does not exist prior to Election Day.  However, it 
currently is so broadly written as to make any claims of 
malfeasance or fraud impossible to prove.  Similarly, the 
code must be approved in final form no less than one month 
prior to the election.  Waiting longer will not allow time 
for proper training of officials.  The short lead time before 
the presidential elections led to multiple problems. 
7. (C) Second, election commission officials must be better 
trained at all levels, from the Central Election Commission 
down to the precincts.  A key component of this is 
introducing more transparency and oversight of the District 
Election Commissions (DEC).  Many irregularities and 
complaints in the presidential election revolved around the 
opaque DECs.  A second component is to remove political 
parties, especially the National Movement, from the training 
8. (C) Counting procedures must be improved.  The higher 
level of transparency in the election process that 
Saakashvili introduced, such as the display of precinct 
protocols on the CEC website, was a tremendous step forward. 
However, this was in itself not enough.  Precinct Election 
Commissions must be able to count the votes and report 
results directly to the CEC in a straightforward manner. 
DECs should not be involved in vote tabulation. 
9. (C) The closer the elections are to being truly free and 
fair, the better for Georgia.  The aftermath of the 
presidential election revealed numerous problems with the 
CEC.  Most seriously, it exposed a low level of concern by 
the government about ensuring the post-election process is as 
secure as the ballot box itself.  The upcoming parliamentary 
election offers Saakashvili his best opportunity in the 
foreseeable future to reassure a somewhat skeptical 
international community that Georgia is truly embracing 
Western values and democracy. 
Ardebili Case 
10.  (C) Saakashvili may express concern about the Iranian 
reaction to the arrest and extradition to the United States 
of an Iranian arms dealer, Ardebili.  The Iranians have made 
veiled threats against Georgian interests in Iran, including 
its Embassy there.  The GOG is worried about possible attacks 
against Georgian troops in Iraq and on the pipelines or other 
infrastructure in Georgia.  Iran is unlikely to supply 
natural gas to Georgia in an emergency, as occurred in 2006. 
We have told the GOG that we will not take any steps to 
counter Iran's threats or any adverse publicity unless 
Georgia asks us to do so.  Even if Iran itself makes the 
incident public, the U.S. and Georgia may find it best to 
remain mute. 


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