Gunfight near restaurant where Georgian, Armenian prez dining

Associated Press Worldstream
March 12, 2004 Friday 3:08 PM Eastern Time

Gunfight erupts near restaurant where Georgian, Armenian presidents
dining, neither injured

by AVET DEMOURIAN; Associated Press Writer

YEREVAN, Armenia

A gunfight erupted Friday evening near a restaurant where the
presidents of Georgia and Armenia were dining, injuring at least
three people but leaving the two leaders unharmed, an official said.

The shooting started shortly after 10 p.m. local time between two
rival criminal groups outside the restaurant in the capital Yerevan,
an Interior Ministry official said on condition of anonymity.
Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili and his Armenian counterpart
Robert Kocharian weren’t injured and they even continued their meal
after the clash, the official said.

One person was arrested, and a gun and three knives confiscated,
according to the official. It didn’t appear those involved in the
altercation were aware the presidents were nearby.

Kocharian commonly invites his guests to informal dinners at the
restaurant, located in the center of the city on the banks of a small
pond. The shooting began on the other side of the water.

Saakashvili was in Armenia for his first visit there since winning a
January election to replace former President Eduard Shevardnadze. The
U.S.-educated Saakashvili was the most prominent leader of protests
that forced Shevardnadze to resign in November, and he has received
strong support from Washington.

Earlier at a news conference, the two leaders said they agreed to
keep close contact and Saaskashvili praised Kocharian as an “ideal
partner” for Georgia.

Saaskashvili said Armenia could also help Georgia normalize its
relations with Russia, which have been complicated by the continued
presence of Russian troops and Moscow’s support of separatist

On Friday, Russia’s Foreign Ministry harshly warned Georgia against
trying to rein in the independent-minded region of Adzharia, whose
leader has maintained close ties with Russia.

Kocharian expressed support for new railroad lines to be built from
Russia through the Georgia’s separatist Abkhazia region, which would
also link Armenia to Russia.