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“I didn’t want to be there with Saakashvili’s agents,” Mr. Ivanishvili told the AP. He spoke some English but relied primarily on an interpreter. He said that he hoped to become prime minister this autumn and that he’d aim to strengthen Georgia’s partnership with Washington while also repairing relations with Moscow.

Mr. Saakashvili has accused his rival of being a Kremlin stooge.

But Mr. Ivanishvili said that under him, his country would avoid “Saakashvili’s mistakes” — referring to the 2008 war and continued frost in Georgian-Russian relations. He said Georgia can win back South Ossetia and Abkhazia’s allegiance through economic progress and stability.