Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili vowed Friday to remain in office until his term ends, defying calls by anti-government protesters that he step down.
Up to 60,000 demonstrators took to the streets Thursday, issuing a 24-hour ultimatum to Saakashvili to resign. The protesters blame the president for leading the country into a brief war with Russia last year over the breakaway province of South Ossetia, and plunging it into a political crisis. But Saakashvili has refused to bow to the demands, said Shota Utiashvili with the country’s interior ministry. Instead, he has offered to meet with the opposition to talk through the crisis. Saakashvili said he understands the protesters’ mounting anger over the rising poverty in the country. “I am angry too,” he said during a news conference to sign a contract to build a hydroelectric power plant. The president’s words are unlikely to appease the protesters, who have said they will continue with their rallies Friday.