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Ivanishvili said the international observers were responsible for preventing vote rigging, and Saakashvili should be thankful to the opposition that “he was able in the end to save his reputation” as a democratic leader.

Ivanishvili confirmed his commitment to pursue Saakashvili’s goals of making Georgia an integral part of Europe and member of NATO, while adding he will seek to restore the trade and diplomatic ties with Russia that were severed when the two countries fought a brief war in 2008. Georgian producers of wine, mineral water, vegetables and fruits had depended on exports to Russia, and the closing of these markets hurt them deeply.

Saakashvili has accused Ivanishvili of planning to put Georgia back under Russian domination. Ivanishvili denies that.

Before Saakashvili conceded, Ivanishvili met with two U.S. senators to assure them of his desire to maintain the close relationship with Washington forged under Saakashvili.

“We talked about the future, how to develop our relationship with our big friend (the United States), and how to develop democracy in Georgia,” he said after meeting with Republican Sen. James Risch of Idaho and Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, both members of the Foreign Relations Committee.

At the news conference later in the day, he again sneered at Saakashvili, who he said deceived the United States. “They thought he was building democracy,” Ivanishvili said. “We have done a good deed for the United States, we have saved democracy in Georgia.”

In Russia, where the election was being watched closely, the government welcomed the defeat of Saakashvili.

“We very much hope and count on the changes that will take place in Georgia and will positively influence the improvement of our ties,” said Valentina Matvienko, the Kremlin-loyal speaker of Parliament’s upper house.

Alexei Malashenko, a scholar at the Carnegie Moscow Center, was more cautious.

“For a while, ties will soften, there will be a prospect of improvement, but an exchange of embassies is not possible yet,” he said.


Misha Dzhinzhikhashvili in Tbilisi and Mansur Mirovalev in Moscow contributed reporting.