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Shevardnadze, first president of Georgia, dies

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President Eduard Shevardnadze of Georgia is shown during a meeting with Secretary of Defense William Cohen, not shown, at the Pentagon in 1997. (Source: DOD) President Eduard Shevardnadze of Georgia is shown during a meeting with Secretary of Defense William Cohen, not shown, at the Pentagon in 1997. (Source: DOD)
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(RNN) – Eduard Shevardnadze, the first president of Georgia, died Monday.

The 86-year-old died after a long illness, his assistant reported to the Associated Press.

He became the Soviet Union's minister of foreign affairs in 1985 under reformist leader Mikhail Gorbachev until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Shevardnadze was a reformer himself, according to the BBC. His tenure took place in a rapidly changing world, and he was able to oversee a transformation in Soviet foreign policy that led to withdrawal from Afghanistan and Central Europe and a reduction in nuclear weapons.

After the breakup of the Soviet Union, Shevardnadze became the first head of state of newly independent Georgia in 1992.

Shevardnadze was initially a popular leader, who helped guide his country through the chaos following the collapse of the USSR. However, the president was forced to resign after a November 2003 revolt over disputed election results, according to the BBC.

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