Georgian PM dies of apparent gas poisoning

Feb. 3, 2005 at 2:39 PM
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TBILISI, Georgia, Feb. 3 (UPI) -- The prime minister of Georgia was found dead Thursday in a friend's apartment in Tbilisi, apparently poisoned by gas.

Security guards broke into the apartment around 4 a.m. Thursday and found Zurab Zhvania dead in an armchair. Guards became suspicious after Zhvania failed to answer his phone for several hours.

The body of his friend, Raul Usupov, the regional deputy governor of Kremo-Kartli, was found in the kitchen.

Zhvania, 41, was once an ally of former President Eduard Shevardnadze, but turned against him and played a prominent role in the 2003 Rose Revolution that brought President Mikhail Saakashvili to power.

U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli called Zhvania "a catalyst for democratic change in Georgia."

"He was a dynamic leader and he was a friend of the United States," Ereli said.

Interior Minister Nano Merabishvili said Zhvania had arrived at the flat at about midnight.

No foul play was suspected, Merabishvili said, but the body was taken to the coroner's office for further examination.

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