Gamsakhurdia kept out in cold by Finland

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HELSINKI (Agencies) - Finland rejected yesterday a visa request by Zviad Gamsakhurdia, the deposed President of Georgia, who wanted to stage a meeting in Helsinki to coincide with the European Security Conference summit scheduled for 9 and 10 July. Instead, Finland's Foreign Ministry issued a visa for Mr Gamsakhurdia which is good from 15 to 29 July, well after the summit closes. Heads of state and governments from 52 countries, including Georgia's Eduard Shevardnadze, are expected at the summit.

Although the Finnish government did not say why the visa application had been turned down, the Helsinki newspaper Hufvudstadsbladet predicted that no visa would be granted since Mr Gamsakhurdia's presence would be 'possibly very uncomfortable for the host country Finland'.

A Ghamsakhurdia support group that filed for his visa in Helsinki said yesterday it would submit a new visa application since it had 'made a mistake' in the initial procedure 'by not specifying the first two weeks of July as the desired period'.

Another group within the Finnish parliament, the 'Georgia Group' which includes 15 of the 200 MPs, submitted its own visa request yesterday morning on behalf of Mr Gamsakhurdia specifying the dates covering the security summit.

Rebels ousted the authoritarian Mr Gamsakhurdia in January and Mr Shevardnadze took over the leadership of the republic in March, but just last week armed supporters of Mr Gamsakhurdia were involved in a failed attempt to overthrow the provisional Georgian government.