President Saakashvili meets with Interior Minister and ministries’ representatives

I would like to congratulate you on the success of the very difficult operation that you carried out. I would like to thank Batoni [polite way of referring to a man in Georgian] Vakhtang [Zugbaia, head of the special operations department], Batoni Gia [Gabunia, head of the counterterrorism centre] for conducting an outstanding operation to catch these extremely dangerous criminals in the conflict zone, in very difficult conditions. I know how many weeks this operation has been in preparation. I would also like to thank Batoni Shalva [Zhghenti] for his work. In Georgia we have practically rebuilt our counterintelligence service, as we promised. For the first time in the history of our country, they have been engaged in doing what the counterintelligence service of a democratic country should be doing. I would like to thank Batoni Amiran [Meskheli] for coordinating this operation.

I would like to say that when this classic case of terrorism occurred on 1 February, the first in our country's history - the organizers intended more victims, although three completely innocent people died - all of us, as Vano [Merabishvili] remembers, promised that we would not leave any stone unturned in searching them out and we would do it without any deaths.

There has been very complex work on this for several months and I have been continually checking on progress. We needed a long time, months, to find who did this. We also had to wait a long time for the culprits, these terrorists, to be arrested.

We have kept the promise we made to our people. We have brought the terrorists to account. We have kept the promise we made to our people that Georgia would have a proper law-enforcement system and proper, strong special services.

Whatever people say, whatever articles people write, whatever reports people make, we all know the level of professionalism, the bravery and courage your colleagues have.

I would like to thank every policeman and every member of the special services. We are the first country in the CIS to have abolished the Ministry of State Security. We have created special services appropriate to a democratic country. The special services of a democratic country have shown us what painstaking work in this area achieves.

I would also like to say that it is very unfortunate that a very dangerous uncontrolled zone has effectively emerged on Georgian territory. People armed with terrorist weapons, imported Igla [surface-to-air] missiles - [changes thought] I must note here that we should all strive against the proliferation of such weapons and I would like to ask Russia to cooperate on this issue. Unfortunately, it appears that this cooperation is not yet at the right level.

I would also like to stress that, although there are clear signs of citizens of a foreign country being involved in these operations and we have ample documented evidence of that, I want everyone to know that we do have all the information but we do not want to use it for confrontation. We do not want cooperation with Russia in this sphere to turn into confrontation. We want full cooperation with the Russian Federation, its appropriate services and their heads, and the Russian government on issues relating to the fight against terrorism.

The people who are being held here are not only harming Georgia and its innocent citizens, but they are also a major problem for the Russian Federation, especially given Russia's experience of terrorism in recent years. We are ready to cooperate with Russia on this issue.

At the same time, I want our population in this region to know that we do not want large-scale confrontation. We are ready to decide all issues through civilized dialogue. We should not permit any provocation.

I would like to warn the de-facto authorities in Tskhinvali that they should refrain from any kind of provocation. Any provocation will be dealt with, but we want a peaceful dialogue and a peaceful resolution of the issues that exist there. The Georgian state has got to its feet. No-one should have any illusions about it. It means that we are strong and mature enough not to rise to the bait.

I would also like to congratulate you on the operation you carried out in Tbilisi concerning the other attempted terrorist act [reference to the attempt to detonate a grenade during President Bush's visit to Tbilisi on 10 May]. You have indeed done a good job. I must say that solving the latter terrorist act was even harder. You know that special services which have a much longer history than ours find it difficult to solve such cases.

I simply want to express my bewilderment at some television reports I have seen, which attempt to find some excuses for this man, show members of his family and try to find an explanation for his attempt to harm Georgia's future - not me, the Georgian president, not the American president, not the children who were there and would have been killed, but the future of Georgia. Then this man speaks and they want us to feel sorry for someone who has attempted to harm Georgia and, generally, peace in the region as well as the entire world, by the way.

Our policeman Zurab Kvlividze died only because he obeyed his superior's order to capture the terrorist alive. He had been ordered not to kill him but to capture him alive. He shot him in such a way as not to kill him. In response he was killed. He sacrificed himself to save a criminal.

No-one is interested in his wife, his mother, his family members or his children. Instead, everyone, several people have taken an interest in some sentimental feelings of that man, the suspect in this terrorist act.

I would like to say simply that we all should learn to be responsible and treat public interests responsibly. This country does not belong to one president or one minister, or one group. This country belongs to all of us and we are all responsible for it. We all ought to be firm and we all ought to realize the challenges facing Georgia and how we should deal with them.

I would like to congratulate you on dealing with these challenges brilliantly, in an exemplary way.

I hope that all our partners, above all the Russian Federation, as well as our partners in talks which are unfortunately deadlocked, the self-proclaimed authorities of this region sitting in Tskhinvali, will cooperate so that every person has a chance to live in a peaceful, protected and just environment. Georgia and its authorities are ready to solve all issues according to the law, without confrontational hysteria.

Thank you very much. I congratulate you on the truly historic successes that you have achieved in recent days.

This translation is published with permission from BBC Monitoring, Reading, UK

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of the President of Georgia

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