GEORGIAN PRESIDENT TAKES REFUGE IN AZERBAIJAN
MOSCOW — Georgian President Zviad Gamsakhurdia, who fled his capital Sunday night after two weeks under rebel siege, has taken refuge across the republic's border with Azerbaijan, an Azeri official said.
An Azeri Foreign Ministry spokesman, Elman Agayev, said yesterday that Mr. Gamsakhurdia had reached the town of Kazakh, about 45 miles from the Georgian capital, Tbilisi.
Gamsakhurdia's convoy of cars, all hung with white flags, was sighted on the road to Kazakh early this morning, according to the Russian Information Agency. Tass news agency reported Gamsakhurdia as having taken 80 of his followers with him.
Mr. Agayev said the Azeri government had made no official proposal for the fugitive president to stay in Azerbaijan, and had not offered him political asylum. Tass news agency said yesterday that Armenia, the third Transcaucasian republic whose border also runs close to Kazakh, was ready to offer Gamsakhurdia political asylum. Azeri officials said they believed Gamsakhurdia might head for Armenia.
In the shattered center of the Georgian capital, now passing under opposition control, rebel spokesmen said a detachment of fighters entered parliament early in the morning but had not yet occupied the extravagant Stalinist building.
Tass said later that rebels taking control of the parliament building had captured the parliament's vice chairman, Nemo Burchuladze, and several parliament members.
The parliamentarians denounced Gamsakhurdia and will appeal on television for presidential supporters to lay down arms, Tass added.
The battered parliament and government complex, where Gamsakhurdia and his followers were holed up in an underground bunker for more than two weeks, belched smoke after a night of heavy shelling.
Local journalists say more than 200 people have been killed in the battle zone around central Tbilisi's Rustaveli Avenue since rebels accusing Gamsakhurdia of imposing dictatorship on Georgia took to the streets to oust him.
Gamsakhurdia, elected in May with nearly 90 percent of votes, denies opposition charges and insists the rebellion is a coup attempt.