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Georgian Protesters Clash With Police, Burjanadze Says

Georgian anti-government protesters clashed today with police after blockading the state television headquarters overnight, opposition leader Nino Burjanadze said.

The police used rubber bullets and tear gas and at least one seriously injured woman was taken to hospital, Burjanadze, a former speaker of parliament, said in an interview.

Police denied using tear gas and said the demonstrators attacked a police car with sticks, Shota Utiashvili, an Interior Ministry spokesman, said by telephone.

The protesters are seeking to oust President Mikheil Saakashvili, a one-time ally of Burjanadze whom the opposition accuses of manipulating elections. Saakashvili opponents last staged a major rally in 2009.

U.S.-backed Saakashvili, 43, swept to power in the so-called Rose Revolution in 2003. He has been under pressure since 2007, when protests turned violent as opponents accused him of political persecution and failing to raise living standards.

Another opposition figure, former Defense Minister Irakli Okruashvili, who now lives in Paris, said in an interview with Georgian television today that he plans to return to Georgia on May 25.

A Paris court of appeals refused to extradite Okruashvili in 2008 after he was convicted in absentia in Georgia of extortion and sentenced to 11 years in prison. Okruashvili claims that the charges are politically motivated and stem from his break with his former ally Saakashvili.

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