Grenade Found Near Bush Was Dud: Georgian Officials

Wednesday, May 11, 2005; 4:44 AM

TBILISI (Reuters) - A hand grenade was found at a square in Georgia where President Bush made a public speech on Tuesday, but it was incapable of exploding, a top Georgian security official said on Wednesday.

The U.S. Secret Service said it was investigating a report by Georgian authorities that a possible hand grenade was thrown within 30 meters (100 feet) of Bush during his visit to the Caucasus state on Tuesday.

The hand grenade, found some 50 meters (160 feet) from where Bush stood in Tbilisi's central Freedom Square, could not have gone off, the secretary of Georgia's Security Council said.

"A (Soviet-made) RPG-5 hand grenade was found at the square," Gela Bezhuashvili told a news briefing. "It was not in working condition. In fact there was no chance it could explode.

"I think the aim was to scare people and attract attention."

Another Georgian official, speaking anonymously, said the grenade was found while Bush was speaking.

Bush hailed Georgia's new democracy as a "beacon of liberty" to chants from a crowd of nearly 150,000 people.

The Caucasus region is home to a string of local conflicts arising from the collapse of the Soviet Union. Georgia borders Russia's troubled Chechnya region and is on the route for a U.S.-backed pipeline linking Caspian oilfields to world markets.

(Reporting by Margarita Antidze and Niko Mchedlishvili)

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