09TBILISI90, GEORGIA: PRIME MINISTER ILL, AND RUMORED TO BE

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09TBILISI90 2009-01-16 13:53 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO8945
OO RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #0090 0161353
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 161353Z JAN 09
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0787
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L TBILISI 000090 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/15/2019 
TAGS: PGOV PREL ECON GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIA:  PRIME MINISTER ILL, AND RUMORED TO BE 
REPLACED 
 
Classified By: Ambassador John F. Tefft for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
 
1.  (C) Summary:  After undergoing several weeks of medical 
treatment in Germany, Prime Minister Grigol Mgaloblishvili 
returned to Tbilisi following the Georgian Orthodox Christmas 
holiday. Throughout his absence, rumors circulated in the 
capitol, despite denials by President Saakashvili, that 
Mgaloblishvili was out of favor with Saakashvili and was 
being removed from office.  The press reported, and senior 
government officials have privately confirmed, that 
Mgaloblishvili is suffering from nephritis, or an 
inflammation of the kidneys, which can vary significantly in 
severity.  Those who have seen Mgaloblishvili since his 
return say the PM looks very unwell; Tbilisi Mayor Ugulava 
said that the PM had lost 10 kilograms in the past month and 
was exhausted.  Rumors continue to circulate that current 
First Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Nika Gilauri 
will be appointed to replace Mgaloblishvili in the near 
future.  End Summary. 
 
2.  (C) Comment:  Although rumors continue to circulate, 
Mgaloblishvili appears seriously ill and many are quite 
worried about his health.  Post has not picked up indications 
of discontent with the PM within presidential circles, 
lending credence to Ugulava,s denial of press reports that 
the President threw a celphone at the PM and verbally abused 
him.  However, regardless of his current relationship with 
Saakashvili, Mgaloblishvili,s days as PM could be numbered 
due to lingering and seemingly serious health problems. 
Gilauri would be a natural replacement for Mgaloblishvili, as 
many of the economic-related tasks that fell to past PMs 
moved to Gilauri when former PM Lado Gurgenidze left office 
in late October.  Gilauri, although not in Saakashvili's most 
inner circle, is a long-time ally of the President, 
U.S.-educated, and previously Minister of Energy from 2004 to 
2007, and Finance Minister from 2007 to present.  End Comment. 
 
SAAKASHVILI DID NOT THROW THE PHONE 
 
3.  (C) In late December a story circulated in the press, 
originally carried by a Georgian tabloid, that during a 
disagreement, Saakashvili screamed at the PM and threw a cell 
phone at him in anger.  Not long after these stories started 
to circulate, Mgaloblishvili left Tbilisi for medical 
treatment in Europe, leading many to suspect that he had been 
banished or even injured in the cell phone incident.  Tbilisi 
Mayor and long-time Saakashvili confidante Gigi Ugulava told 
the Ambassador that these rumors were fabricated and very 
upsetting to Saakashvili.  Ugulava said he was present during 
the alleged &incident.8  Saakashvili had paid a routine 
visit to the State Chancellery, and during a meeting with the 
PM had taken a call and was yelling at someone on the other 
line.  Ugulava,s interpretation of the rumor is that someone 
outside the office heard this and reported that Saakashvili 
was yelling at the PM, and then added the thrown cell phone 
to embellish the story. 
 
PM REMAINS IN ILL HEALTH, GILAURI NEXT IN LINE? 
 
4.  (C) The 35-year old Mgalobishvili was a surprise choice 
as PM when he was recalled from his diplomatic posting as 
Ambassador to Turkey in October to take over the reins of the 
Georgian Government -- and at the time, many assumed that he 
would be an interim PM and in office for six months or so. 
However, Ugulava and many others in the Georgian Government 
report to us that the PM is extremely sick with a serious 
kidney ailment that will likely force him to return to 
Germany for treatment in the near future.  During a recent 
television appearance with the President, the PM looked ill 
Qtelevision appearance with the President, the PM looked ill 
and said very little.  First Deputy Minister of Energy Marika 
Valiashvili said she had seen the PM during a recent 
government meeting and that he looked green and very ill. 
Confirming Valiashvili,s statements, Ugulava reported that 
the PM had lost 10 kg, a loss he could ill-afford, and did 
not look well.  Despite two weeks in Germany, Ugulava said 
Mgaloblishvili will likely need more treatment.  Advisor to 
the Minister of Finance, and former advisor to the PM, Goga 
Melikadze also reported that Mgaloblishvili is extremely ill 
and the assumption in the government is that First Deputy PM 
and Finance Minister Nika Gilauri will soon become PM. 
Melikadze said that throughout Mgaloblishvili,s absence, 
Gilauri assumed the PM role and continues to cover many prime 
ministerial responsibilities. 
TEFFT

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