US 'deeply troubled' by actions against protesters in Georgia

Demonstrators hold a rally to protest against a bill on "foreign agents", in Tbilisi

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States is deeply troubled by actions taken against those protesting a draft law in Georgia and the government should change its course, U.S. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said on Thursday.

Georgian security forces have repeatedly deployed tear gas, pepper spray and water cannon against protesters who have been staging almost daily demonstrations for around a month against the government's "foreign agents" bill.

The protesters say the bill is authoritarian and inspired by similar legislation in Russia that has been used to clamp down on dissent there.

"We are deeply troubled by the actions taken against those protesting against the draft law," Miller said

"We are aware of increased reports of harassment and physical assault of civil society and opposition activists and journalists. We condemn this and we call for a full independent and timely investigation."

Miller said Washington had enjoyed a successful partnership with Georgia for more than 30 years and would like to continue that.

"There is still time to work collaboratively with Georgia but the Georgian government needs to change course for that to be the case," he said

Georgia's State Security Service on Wednesday accused the organizers of the protests of seeking to seize power through violence and warned against joining them.

Six people were detained for public disorder at rallies against the bill, Russia's TASS state news agency reported on Thursday.

Last week Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze rejected U.S. and EU criticism, saying opponents of the bill were unwilling to engage in a meaningful discussion.

(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk and David Brunnstrom; Editing by Chris Reese and Daniel Wallis)