Georgian president vetoes 'foreign agents' bill, TASS reports

FILE PHOTO: Participants, including Georgia's President Salome Zourabichvili, walk during a procession in support of the country's membership in the European Union in Tbilisi ,

TBILISI (Reuters) - Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili has announced that she has vetoed a draft law on foreign agents, Russia's state-run TASS news agency reported on Saturday.

Zourabichvili had said previously that she would veto the bill, which has sparked street protests, but her decision can be overridden by another vote in parliament, controlled by Georgia's ruling party and its allies.

"Today I vetoed a Russian law. This law is Russian in its essence and spirit," TASS quoted her as telling t a briefing. "It contradicts our constitution and all European standards, therefore it represents an obstacle to our European path."

TASS quoted the president as saying her veto was legally competent, and that it would be handed over to parliament on Saturday. "This law must be repealed," it quoted her as saying.

Parliament, is, however, widely expected to overturn the veto.

Mass protests have swept through the Georgian capital Tbilisi over the past month since the first reading of the draft law was passed in parliament.

The law would require organisations receiving more than 20% of their funding from abroad to register as agents of foreign influence, imposing onerous disclosure requirements and punitive fines for violations.

Opponents see the bill as a test of whether the country stays on a path towards integration with Europe or pivots back towards Russia.

The United States and the European Union have repeatedly warned the ruling Georgian Dream party to drop the bill, which protesters fear will harm the South Caucasus country's bid to join the EU.

(Reporting by Reuters, Editing by Louise Heavens and Timothy Heritage)