New Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili accused the Washington Post editorial board of working with his nemesis, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili on an editorial that harshly criticized the new Georgian government's arrests of former senior officials.
"The magnate-turned-prime minister said last week that his first official visit to the United States had been postponed, which is a good thing," the Post said in an editorial today. "As long as he is imprisoning opposition leaders and seeking to monopolize power, Georgia's new leader should not be welcome in Washington."
The editorial noted that the Ivanishvili government has brought criminal charges against 20 officials from the previous government, including the ministers of defense and interior, and has threatened to bring charges against the previous prime minister and the current mayor of the capital Tbilisi.
"Though President Mikheil Saakashvili, whose term does not expire for a year, facilitated the formation of the new government, Mr. Ivanishvili has repeatedly demanded that he resign while hinting that prosecutions of his associates will continue until he does. The new parliamentary majority has stripped funding from the president's office and pressured members of the opposition to switch sides. Media that were sympathetic to the former government have been intimidated," the Post wrote.
During a visit to Georgia last week, Assistant Secretary of State Phil Gordon urged Ivanishvili and his party to avoid pursuing prosecutions of former officials as political payback.
"Nobody wants to see, or get the perception, that all this is about retribution against political enemies rather than the rule of law," Gordon said. "That's the balance that the government is going to have to strike, as it absolutely rightly seeks to hold people accountable for their actions according to Georgian law -- but also seeks to avoid giving the impression internationally and domestically that it's going to use its power to execute retribution on other political leaders."
In a press conference today in Tbilisi , Ivanishvili lashed out against the Post.
"It is amazing and I will find out how [Saakashvili] managed that such an editorial appeared [in the Washington Post]. Our president has had only one thing organized well. This is what he is currently engaged in. This is all he got. He does lobbying as much as he can. He has this system set well," he said.
Ivanishvili said his foreign minister will complain directly to the Post during her Washington tour this week.
"You should know that certain incomprehensible articles were also published in Europe. Trust me, we will respond to them. In case of Washington Post, [the Foreign Minister] Maia Panjikidze is in the United States and perhaps she will contact them. We are not invited [to the United States] by Washington Post. We have never had such an agreement. It is the United States government that is inviting us."
Panjikidze, the foreign minister, will have a range of meetings in Washington this week, including with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and separately, with your humble Cable guy.
John Hudson reports on national security and foreign policy from the Pentagon to Foggy Bottom, the White House to Embassy Row, for The Cable.