Armenian parliament speaker invites opposition to talk

Associated Press Worldstream
April 23, 2004 Friday 3:43 PM Eastern Time

Armenian parliament speaker invites opposition to talk, says refusal
could worsen country’s tensions

YEREVAN, Armenia

The speaker of Armenia’s parliament on Friday called on opposition
representatives to meet with him next week in hopes of diminishing
the country’s tension and avoiding violence.

Artur Bagdasarian indicated that if the opposition refuses the offer,
Armenian authorities will take a tougher stance against the protest
rallies that the opposition has convened several times a week this
month in the capital.

In the event of a refusal to talk, “it could be considered, with
regret, that Armenia is rejecting democratic values in that the
authorities will be forced to use its resources of power,”
Bagdasarian said.

Police forcefully broke up a rally outside the presidential palace on
April 13, detaining more than 100 protesters and reportedly causing

The opposition on Friday meanwhile called for a rally on Tuesday that
its leaders say will be “vast and decisive.”

The opposition rallies have focused on calling for President Robert
Kocharian’s resignation.

Kocharian won a second term in presidential elections a year ago that
sparked mass protests, including nearly daily demonstrations between
the first round and the runoff.

Opposition groups alleged widespread violations in both rounds of the
election, which was followed by a parliamentary ballot in which the
pro-government party won the most votes.

Also Friday, police reported that a dual Armenian-US citizen, Artur
Bardanian, had been arrested on charges including action to
forcefully seize state power. Bardanian was an active supporter of
Stepan Demirchian, the main opponent of Kocharian in last year’s