White House: Bush was not in Danger in Tbilisi

Georgian Officials Say Dud Grenade Aimed at Panic

Metal detectors were removed by noon
on May 10, as crowds rushed to the
entrance of Freedom Square.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said on May 11 that President Bush’s life was not in danger in Tbilisi, despite the reported discovery of a dud hand grenade at the site from where Bush addressed tens of thousands of Georgians on Freedom Square. On May 11 President Bush himself described standing in front of a huge crowed in Tbilisi as “a fantastic experience.”

The White House statement comes as a relief for the Georgian authorities, which were trying to play down this report about the dud hand grenade in an attempt to avoid marring the impressive welcome Georgians gave to the U.S. President on May 9-10.

Scott McClellan said at a news briefing in Washington that the security was tight in Tbilisi and agents “would have taken steps to make sure that he [George Bush] was in a secure location” in case of any threat.

He said that President Bush was informed about this report “a couple of hours” after he departed from Tbilisi.

The White House official also said that the U.S. side is looking into this case, adding that “there have been different reports about what happened and what exactly it was.”

President Bush, who briefed the members of Congress over his recent European trip on May 11, said at this meeting that “standing in front of 150,000 people that love freedom was a fantastic experience.”
Georgian Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili confirmed on Wednesday that a dud, Soviet-made RPG-5 hand grenade was found on Freedom Square just 50 meters away from the stage from where the U.S. and Georgian Presidents made their public speeches.
He said that it aimed at triggering “panic and fear” among people and at overshadowing the importance of the U.S. President’s visit.

“The hand grenade was not for explosion and even in the event of its explosion the Presidents were in safe, they were protected,” Vano Merabishvili said.

“It was aimed at causing panic and fear of the people and, what is most alarming, [it aimed] at an attempt to downplay and overshadow the importance of this visit in the international media,” he added.

Earlier on May 11 Secretary of Georgian National Security Council Gela Bezhuashvili also said that “the object” was inactive and posed no threat.

“Now, we are jointly investigating the case with the U.S. side,” he added.
Security was tight on Freedom Square from early on May 10. Passages to the venue were blocked by the security, which together with Georgian officials was also manned by the U.S. agents.

People willing to attend the two Presidents’ addresses could enter into Freedom Square only from Rustaveli Avenue and only after passing through specially set up metal detectors, which slowed the crowd of thousands in getting to the Square. As a result, by noon these metal detectors were removed.

“Keep in mind this was a very large crowd. And in terms of the security, the people that were closer in to the President had all gone through a sweep, or been through the magnetometer. The people further out that were further back from where the President was may not have been,” Scott McClellan said.


Back to top button