- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili declined Tuesday to rule out becoming prime minister, saying he does not want to turn himself into a “lame duck” with nearly two years left in his term.

“There are so many things that would change the lifetime of many generations chance in the decades to come that the last thing I want to do is turn myself into a lame duck by speculating about my own future,” Mr. Saakashvili told reporters in Washington.

The 44-year-old president, who was elected in 2004 after the former Soviet republic’s “Rose Revolution,” is prohibited from running for a third term next year.

Mr. Saakashvili approved constitutional amendments in 2010 that devolve powers from the president to the prime minister, stoking speculation that he would seek the premiership following this October’s parliamentary elections.

He commented on comparisons between himself and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who was president from 2000 to 2008 and is seeking a third term in the Kremlin in March.

“Sometimes people ask, ‘Are you going to be Putin?’ ” Mr. Saakashvili said. “By definition, Georgia can have no Putin because Georgia is not Russia, A, and B, we are right now doing things that will enable us never to have anything like Putin in Georgia forever.”

Georgian opposition leaders have pressed Mr. Saakashvili to clarify his intentions. Free Democrats leader Irakli Alasania told The Washington Times last month that he hoped the president would “act as George Washington did: after two terms, leave and give a chance to the Georgian population to elect a new leader.”

Mr. Saakashvili met Monday with President Obama, who floated the possibility of a Georgia-U.S. free-trade agreement.

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