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A Georgian opposition candidate, billionaire Badri Patarkatsishvili, said Thursday he would
A Georgian opposition candidate, billionaire Badri Patarkatsishvili, said Thursday he would run for the country's president on January 5 elections, despite his earlier announcement to pull out from the race.

In late December last year Georgian prosecutors circulated tapes allegedly showing the businessman offering a $100 million bribe to a senior Interior Ministry official to "neutralize" the department during protests planned for the early presidential elections.

"I held a telephone conversation with the Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia and this conversation gave me strength," Patarkatsishvili said. "I have decided to run for the president."

Patarkatsishvili, Georgia's richest man, who lives in Britain, has admitted attempting to bribe the official, but said he had only been trying to deter clashes between police and protestors after the elections, if Mikheil Saakashvili's reelection bid was successful.

Last week the billionaire said, "I am ready to give up plans to run in the presidential election and send a relevant statement to the Central Election Commission."

Following Patarkatsishvili's statement on Thursday to run for the president, Georgy Zhvania, the head of the tycoon's campaign headquarters, announced about his resignation from the post.

"Unfortunately, my expectations were not justified and my participation on this arena yielded no results at all," Zhvania told journalists. "Obviously the values of people involved in the Georgian politics are completely different from the values I was raised upon."

The Georgian Patriarchate in turn called on all political forces in the country, including the ruling force, not to involve church into political processes.

"The Church of Georgia regrets that once again a religious aspect was used in political context," David Sharashenidze, a spokesman for the Georgian Patriarchate said commenting on the statement of Patarkatsishvili, who said his decision to run for the president was made after he spoke with the Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia.

A member of Patarkatsishvili's campaign headquarters in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, earlier said the tycoon could pull out of the race on condition Saakashvili, who stepped down in late November last year to be able run, did the same.

Authorities in the ex-Soviet Caucasus state had already accused Patarkatsishvili of seeking to instigate a coup during street protests in Tbilisi in early November, 2007, which were brutally broke up by riot police and eventually led to the U.S.-educated Saakashvili announcing the snap polls.

The billionaire was reported to have delayed his arrival in Georgia over fears he would be arrested.


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