PM of Georgia dies of gas poisoning

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Thursday, February 3, 2005

Georgia —Zurab Zhvania, Prime Minister of Georgia, was found dead of gas poisoning at a friend's home. The China Daily quotes Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili: "This is a tragic accident... It was a gas poisoning."

Zhavani was visiting in the home of Raul Usupov, deputy governor from the Kvemo-Kartli region, when an apparent carbon monoxide leak from a gas space heater overcame and killed both him and his host.

Carbon monoxide poisoning is not unknown in Georgia; 45 deaths by carbon monoxide poisoning are reported by the official Russian Information Agency. Power supplies are not entirely reliable, and central heating systems are not universal, so small portable heaters are common even in the capital.

President Mikhail Saakashvili called an emergency cabinet meeting to discuss responding to the death. "(Zhvania's death) is a huge blow for our country and personally for me as a president and as a person," quotes the China Daily, "I have lost my closest friend, my most loyal adviser, my biggest ally."

Once a protegé of Eduard Shevardnadze, and widely viewed as his chosen successor, Zhvania chose to join the opposition in supporting Saakashvili. He has been viewed as a moderating influence on Saakashvili, who appointed Mr. Zhvania after taking office one year ago.

Zhavania joined Georgia's Green Party in the 1980s. He was chair of Georgia's Parliament from 1995-2001.

"He played an important role in helping Georgia meet its aspirations for greater peace, prosperity and euro-Atlantic integration," NATO chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said in his expression of condolences.