Georgia's Parliament Approves New PM

Associated Press Writer

Georgia's parliament approved the president's nomination of Zurab Nogaideli as prime minister on Thursday, bringing in a new government two weeks after the previous premier died from apparent carbon monoxide poisoning.

Nogaideli, who had been finance minister, will fill the post left empty by Premier Zurab Zhvania's sudden death on Feb. 3. Lawmakers postponed the confirmation vote last week to give Nogaideli more time to present his policies and his team, which were both approved Thursday by a 175-24 vote.

Nogaideli pledged to "maintain the political course" set by his predecessor and President Mikhail Saakashvili.

"The priority task now is to create new workplaces and curb unemployment," he said, adding that the government in this former Soviet republic also would carry out military and police reforms and improvements in the education sector.

Nogaideli, 41, served in parliament from 1992 to 2001, when he was named finance minister by longtime President Eduard Shevardnadze. He resigned a year later to protest Shevardnadze's policies and was appointed to the same post in Zhvania's government in February 2004.

Saakashvili, Zhvania and parliament speaker Nino Burdzhanadze were key leaders of weekslong anti-Shevardnadze street protests in late 2003 that were known as the "Rose Revolution" and paved the way for Saakashvili's election in January 2004.

Zhvania was found dead in a Tbilisi apartment. Georgian authorities say a poorly ventilated gas space heater was to blame for the carbon monoxide poisoning of Zhvania and a friend.

But many in this country plagued by a history of political intrigue, separatist conflicts and tensions with Russia have been skeptical about the ruling that Zhvania's death was an accident.

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