MOSCOW, January 5th, 2004 (RIA Novosti correspondent) - Adzharia's decision to participate in the Georgian presidential elections signifies that it does not want Georgia's disintegration, First Deputy Chairman of the Adzharian Cabinet Badri Meladze said Monday.

"Adzharia has made its first step towards Tbilisi by participating in the presidential elections and thereby testifying that we do not want Georgia's disintegration," he said.

Badri Meladze expressed the hope that the new Georgian leadership would have enough political will to concentrate on practical efforts rather than on populism and confrontation within the country. "Though, we are ready for any developments, be it co-operation or confrontation," he added.

Meladze is convinced that confrontation with Adzharia does not meet Tbilisi's interests. "The country has many other problems," he noted.

The decision to hold the Georgian presidential elections in Adzharia was adopted by the local authorities several days before the event. Earlier, the republic's leader Aslan Abashidze stressed the need to postpone the elections.

"Adzharia has taken part in the Georgian presidential elections. I personally went to a polling station and cast a vote. But this decision was hard to make," Aslan Abashidze said.

"I speculated whether Adzharia could stay away, while the other two autonomies (Abkhazia and South Ossetia - ed.) were de facto outside Georgia, and this is unclear from the historical viewpoint. As a result, I chose the lesser evil," said the Adzharian leader.

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