Clinton warns Georgia, Ukraine on prosecutions

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By DESMOND BUTLER, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton warned Georgia's new government Thursday not to engage in political prosecutions of former government officials.

She also sharply criticized Ukraine's October elections and expressed concern about selective prosecution of opposition leaders there.

Clinton's warnings were aimed at two countries that were once seen as the bright spots of emerging democracy in the former Soviet sphere.

Despite her comments on Georgian prosecutions, Clinton praised the country's own parliamentary elections in October and the peaceful transition of power. She was speaking as she welcomed Georgian Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze ahead of a State Department meeting.

"We do hope that everything that is done with respect to prosecuting any potential wrongdoers is done transparently in accord with due process and the rule of law," she said.

The warning followed a pledge by new Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili to investigate allies of President Mikhail Saakashvili. Ivanishvili's coalition defeated a government led by Saakashvili in elections in October.

Several officials have already been arrested and face charges ranging from illegal imprisonment to wiretapping of Saakashvili's opponents.

Clinton's criticism of Ukraine came later in a speech on Europe at the Brookings Institution.

"Ukraine's October elections were a step backwards for democracy and we remain deeply concerned about the selective prosecution of opposition leaders," Clinton said.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych's party won a majority in the parliamentary elections, but Western observers have deemed them unfair. Opposition parties, including that of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, have refused to recognize the results and plan to contest them.

Tymoshenko was jailed last year on charges of abusing her office. The West has condemned the imprisonment as politically motivated. The European Union has put on hold a key cooperation deal with Kiev over Tymoshenko's jailing.

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