FACTBOX-Five Facts on Adzhara region

FACTBOX-Five Facts on Adzhara region

LONDON, May 6 (Reuters) – Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili
proclaimed the start of his country’s reunification on Thursday after
forcing out the Adzhara region’s rebel leader Aslan Abashidze in his
second “rose revolution” in six months.

Abashidze flew into exile on Wednesday after a night of opposition
rallies and a massive defection of his loyalists.

Here are basic facts about the Adzhara region in Georgia:

Adzhara has a population of 400,000 and is located on the coastline of
the Black Sea in the southwest of Georgia.

The capital, Batumi, is a large oil refining centre which supplies
Georgia and neighbouring Armenia. After Saakashvili was prevented from
entering the region in March, Georgian troops cut rail and road
access, forcing the 200,000 barrel-per-day oil terminal to stop
loading oil.

The region declares itself to be autonomous although its status has
not been resolved since Georgia declared independence in 1991 after
the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Abashidze was backed by Russia which keeps a controversial Soviet-era
military base outside Batumi, seen as leverage against
Georgia. However, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov helped mediate
a peaceful end to the current crisis in Adzhara, and Abashidze flew
into exile with Ivanov on Wednesday night.

Adzhars are ethnic Georgians but unlike most Georgians, who are
predominantly Christian, the Adzhars are Muslims after centuries of
Turkish occupation, which ended in the 19th century.

05/06/04 07:25 ET