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‘West betrayed me’

Tbilisi, Nov. 27: Eduard Shevardnadze, the deposed Georgian President and an embittered, broken man, told The Daily Telegraph yesterday that he had “rescued the world” from the brink of nuclear catastrophe by ending the Cold War, only to be betrayed by the west.

Speaking at his official residence on a hill overlooking Tbilisi, the man who was once one of the world’s most feted politicians said he had been let down. “If the Cold War had not stopped there would have been a Third World War,” he said. “We rescued the world. I’m not saying that I did it alone but I played one of the most important roles.”

“There were 40,000 Soviet tanks in Europe and hundreds of thousands of guns. Within 24 hours they could have been on the Atlantic coast [of France] but we didn’t do that even when the hotheads wanted to use force in Berlin and crush Solidarity in Poland.”

But Shevardnadze now believes that the US helped to orchestrate his downfall. Upset by what he saw as a gross betrayal by his friends, the 75-year-old strongman vented his sense of hurt, particularly at the role of Richard Miles, the American ambassador, whom he alleged was instrumental in the Opposition’s success in unseating him, as well as local activists backed with American money. “I was one of the biggest supporters of the US policy,” he said. “When they needed my support on Iraq I gave it. What happened here, this I cannot explain.”

Shevardnadze sat surrounded by the mementoes of three decades of high authority. On one wall there were framed photographs of him with George Bush Sr, Javier Solana, President Jacques Chirac, James Baker and even Ray Charles, the singer.

Tucked into the side of the black leather blotter on his ornate desk was the business card of the President of the United States of America, with telephone numbers scribbled on the back in pencil.

But the ageing man sitting on the black leather sofa appeared tired and a little bewildered. His voice was low and hoarse and his delivery slow.

In the past two weeks, he has visibly aged.

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