Armenian leader rules out Georgian-style revolt

Armenian leader rules out Georgian-style revolt

By Ron Popeski

MOSCOW, April 15 (Reuters) – Armenian President Robert Kocharyan,
interviewed ahead of a new rally by opponents demanding he step down,
said on Thursday his country in no way resembled next-door Georgia
where protests unseated its leader.

Police in the ex-Soviet state broke up a rally on Monday in the
Armenian capital Yerevan and officials said demonstrations staged
without permission would no longer be tolerated.

Police took no action on Thursday as 400 human rights activists,
supporting neither Kocharyan nor the opposition, gathered in Yerevan
to denounce the use of force. Opposition parties pledged to stage a
new mass gathering on Friday.

Kocharyan admitted the catalyst for the protests, up to 20,000 strong
last week, was the bloodless revolution which ousted veteran leader
Eduard Shevardnadze in Georgia next door.

“The Armenian opposition, encouraged by the Georgian ‘velvet
revolution’, has clearly decided that the situation in the country
will enable them to achieve the same outcome,” Kocharyan told Russian
state television.

“But the situation cannot be compared, given the economy and growth,
in double figures for the past three years, and the solid position of

Police had done their job “quickly, clearly and professionally” to
halt an illegal meeting threatening the head of state. And protesters,
he said, should not be deluded into thinking the entire country was
caught up in their movement.

“This is, rather, on a quite small political stage. The country has
carried on in the past and will continue to do so. People are working
as usual,” he said.

“I think the fuss raised over this far outweighs the importance of
what actually occurred.”


The opposition accuses Kocharyan of securing re-election fraudulently
last year and wants changes to legislation to allow for a country-wide
referendum on confidence in him.

Opposition politicians vowed to disregard the ban and gather in
Yerevan’s Freedom Square on Friday.

“There is no such thing as an authorised demonstration in Armenia,”
said Stepan Demirchyan, leader of the Justice Party and second place
finisher to the president last year.

He was cautious about calls from Kocharyan’s allies to meet to settle
differences over legislation and the constitution.

Talks, Demirchyan said, could only take place when those behind
“violence and lawlessness” were brought to account and last year’s
election irregularities were resolved.

Former Yerevan Mayor Artashes Gegamyan, third in last year’s
presidential contest, said he would meet only Armenia’s top leaders
and then only if talks were broadcast live.

Police raided the offices of Armenia’s opposition after Monday’s
protests in which about 30 people were injured.

Landlocked Armenia is key to unravelling a dispute over the region of
Nagorno-Karabakh — populated by ethnic Armenians but run by
Azerbaijan since the 1920s. Some 35,000 died in six years of fighting
after the region broke from Azerbaijan in 1988.

Kocharyan had run Nagorno-Karabakh and became Armenian president in
1998. But he has made little progress in solving the conflict or in
improving the lives of destitute Armenians.

(Additional reporting by Hasmik Lazarian in Yerevan)

04/15/04 17:01 ET

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS