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Grenade near Bush was live

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CNN) -- A hand grenade found in the crowd as U.S. President George W. Bush spoke in Tblisi, Georgia last week was live and could have exploded, U.S. and Georgian officials have said.

In the hours after the incident, Georgia officials insisted the device was an inert, Soviet-era training grenade that posed no threat to Bush or his audience.

But on Wednesday, a spokesman for Georgia's Interior Ministry and a statement from the U.S. Embassy in Tblisi contradicted the original assessment.

U.S. and Georgian officials Wednesday also confirmed the grenade was tossed into the crowd, contradicting last week's statement that it was placed there and not thrown.

"A hand grenade was tossed in the general direction of the main stage and landed within 100 feet of the podium," the U.S. Embassy statement said.

"From initial qualified inspection, this hand grenade appears to be a live device that simply failed to function due to a light strike on the blasting cap induced by a slow deployment of the spoon activation device," the statement said.

U.S. and Georgian experts inspected the device, which was wrapped in a "dark Tartan-colored cloth," and will complete a report on the incident, according to the statement.

"We consider this act to be a threat against the health and welfare of both the president of the United States and the president of Georgia, as well as the multitude of Georgian people that had turned out at the event," the statement added.

Tens of thousands of people crowded into Tblisi's main plaza, Freedom Square, to hear Bush on May 10. Parts of the stage on which he appeared with Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili were surrounded by bulletproof glass.

Last week, Georgian Interior Ministry spokesman Guram Donadze described the device as a "non-combative" grenade used in military training and said it did not contain explosives.

Gela Bezhuashvili, secretary of Georgia's National Security Council, also said last week that the device was a "so-called engineering grenade" found in "inactive mode."

Wednesday's embassy statement said the FBI was leading the investigation in conjunction with Georgian authorities and other U.S. federal agencies.

Anyone with any information, video or pictures related to the incident is asked to contact Georgian authorities.

A reward of 20,000 laris (about $9,000) is being offered in exchange for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible, the statement said.


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