Archive for Thursday, May 12, 2005

Grenade found near Georgian stage where Bush spoke

May 12, 2005

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— Was it a bid to undermine a visit by President Bush -- or evidence of a real assassination plot?

A grenade found near a stage where Bush addressed crowds of Georgians on Tuesday has set off a flurry of speculation. The array of potential culprits -- from disgruntled Georgians to local minorities and even Russian saboteurs -- reflects the instability of a volatile country struggling through transition.

The address to tens of thousands of people in Tbilisi's Freedom Square was the centerpiece of a Bush visit choreographed to cement relations between the United States and the ex-Soviet republic's new pro-Western leadership.

National Security Council chief Gela Bezhuashvili said Wednesday he suspected the grenade, which he described as inactive, was planted in a bid to undermine the rosy scenario.

"The goal is clear -- to frighten or to scare people and to attract the attention of the mass media," he said. "The goal has been reached, and that is why I'm talking to you now."

Bezhuashvili said neither Bush nor Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili -- who were both behind bulletproof glass -- were in any danger. The Soviet-era grenade was found about 100 feet from the stage, he added.

Bush wasn't even aware of the grenade report until Secret Service agents on the plane told him about it as his plane was returning to Andrews Air Force Base outside of Washington, spokesman Scott McClellan said, adding that the White House never believed the president's life was in danger.

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