TBILISI, Georgia -- Three days after protesters brawled with politicians loyal to President Mikheil Saakashvili while he was delivering his annual address to the nation, the country's interior minister said Monday that Mr. Saakashvili himself had "artificially provoked" the episode to win the sympathy of Western governments.
The fight, which left five lawmakers injured, sent a troubling message about the state of Georgian politics just five months after the country's first constitutional transfer of power.
Mr. Saakashvili's United National Movement, which has dominated Georgian politics for the past nine years, has been forced into an uncomfortable power-sharing arrangement with a coalition led by Bidzina Ivanishvili, who entered politics largely to supplant Mr. Saakashvili.
Several international bodies, including the European Union, issued statements of concern about Friday's episode at the National Library.
Catherine Ashton, the European Union's senior foreign affairs official, said she was "concerned at signs of deterioration of the power-sharing arrangement" between the parties and "deeply concerned by the violent incidents in front of the National Library and call upon all parties to act in a responsible way, and to refrain from any violence."
The interior minister, Irakli Gharibashvili, a close ally of Mr. Ivanishvili, said he had a "reasonable suspicion" that the episode had been staged in order to portray Georgia as a failed state. He showed foreign diplomats film that he said showed Saakashvili loyalists carrying out attacks or trying to provoke them.
Noting that 43 protesters had been questioned and four had been detained and charged, he called for Mr. Saakashvili's allies to comply with investigators' summons to be questioned. "We all are equal before the law, and there will be no caste of untouchables," he said.
Mr. Saakashvili's spokesman said the interior minister was trying to avoid responsibility for the violence, which occurred after a large and angry crowd gathered outside the venue for Mr. Saaksahvili's speech, vowing to deny entry to him and his allies.
Mr. Gharibashvili said that 200 police officers tried to prevent the attack, and that Mr. Saakashvili's bodyguards should have taken responsibility for the scene. He said the police tried to form corridors to allow officials to enter the building, but that Mr. Saakashvili's allies refused to take advantage of these routes.
The power-sharing arrangement, which may continue until October, is so combustible in part because Mr. Saakashvili retains the constitutional power to dissolve the government and call for new parliamentary elections. Late on Monday, Mr. Saakashvili met with the speaker of Parliament, an Ivanishvili ally, to discuss ways to calm the standoff, but the meeting became acrimonious.
Ellen Barry contributed reporting from Moscow.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.