A senior U.S. official is leaving for Georgia to express U.S. concern about the state of emergency in the country, local press reported on Friday.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew J. Bryza was quoted as saying that he will seek assurances from President Mikhail Saakashvili and other government officials in meetings during the weekend that Georgia will guarantee free and fair elections.
"We urge the government, the president and the parliament of Georgia to lift the state of emergency, restore all media broadcast and have a real and serious discussion with the opposition about how to chart a way forward and strengthen Georgia's democratic institutions," Bryza said.
Bryza said he would also meet with members of the opposition who have called for Saakashvili's removal and will call on them to ensure a peaceful run-up to elections.
Saakashvili declared on Wednesday a state of emergency in the capital Tbilisi "to prevent mass disturbances" and signed the relevant decree. He also announced that Georgia will antedate its presidential elections from autumn to the beginning of next year.
Georgian presidential elections will be held on Jan. 5, 2008, Saakashvili said.