Kocharian ‘Dismayed’ By Row Over World Bank Loan

Kocharian ‘Dismayed’ By Row Over World Bank Loan
By Ruzanna Khachatrian and Karine Kalantarian 25/05/2004 13:57

Radio Free Europe, Czech Rep.
May 25 2004

President Robert Kocharian has reacted with dismay to the
inner-government row over the alleged misuse of a 1999 World Bank loan
to Armenia’s judiciary, according to some leaders of the parliament
majority who met him over the weekend.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, they told RFE/RL on Monday
that Kocharian expressed his discontent with the public spat between
parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian and Justice Minister David
Harutiunian over the findings of the National Assembly’s Audit
Chamber. But they said he stopped short of siding with either

In an annual report unveiled last month, the parliament body controlled
by Baghdasarian decried the “inefficient use” of a $4.45 million
share of the $11.5 million credit which was set aside for repairing
and reconstructing 20 rundown court buildings across Armenia. It
argued that only 11 courts have benefited from the scheme designed
to strengthen the country’s judiciary.

Baghdasarian and Harutiunian publicly clashed over the allegations
during a parliament session. The latter vehemently denies any
wrongdoing, accusing the Audit Chamber of lacking professionalism
and manipulating facts. He pledged on May 14 to hold the Chamber
accountable for the allegations.

A Justice Ministry body in charge of the implementation of the World
Bank project was scheduled meet later in the day to discuss the
matter. Journalists were invited to cover the meeting. Invitations
were also extended to the head of the Audit Chamber, Gagik Voskanian,
and his top aides. None of them was in Yerevan, however.

The oversight body was also attacked on Monday by a member of
the parliament’s People’s Deputy group of non-partisan lawmakers
supporting Kocharian. Hakob Hakobian charged that it is manipulated
by Baghdasarian to conduct arbitrary inspections of government
agencies and present an incomplete or distorted picture of how they
use public funds. Observers believe that the People’s Deputy leader
Karen Karapetian was behind the verbal attack on the speaker.

Karapetian, Baghdasarian were among the leaders of all
pro-establishment factions of the parliament who met with Kocharian
on Saturday. It was the second such meeting in just over a month.

A brief statement by the presidential press service said the meeting
focused on the work of the National Assembly and issues to be discussed
during its upcoming sittings. Karapetian and other participants
likewise said that they mainly discussed their “legislative work.”

According to Mher Shahgeldian, chairman of the parliament committee
on defense and security, Kocharian and his top allies also agreed
that the almost four-month opposition boycott has not weakened or
undermined the assembly.