Armenian youth groups protest plan to send troops to Iraq

Armenian youth groups protest plan to send troops to Iraq

Agence France Presse
Oct 13 2004

YEREVAN, Oct (AFP) – Armenian youth organizations Wednesday protested
against President Robert Kocharian’s decision to send non-combatant
troops to Iraq to work with the Polish military contingent there.

“We are worried that Armenia’s authorities are preparing to send an
Armenian peace-keeping contingent to Iraq,” 30 organizations wrote
in a joint letter to Kocharian.

The organizations include student associations and youth groups
linked to several political parties, including those that support
the government, and have thousands of members.

The organizations warned that the ethnic Armenian diaspora in Iraq,
numbering around 20,000 people, could be targeted by Iraqi insurgents.

The non-combatant troops, which include doctors, mine-clearing experts
and drivers, are to be sent to Iraq and integrated into the Polish
military contingent there as part of an agreement signed last month
between Yerevan and Warsaw.

The organizations also sent their letter to the Armenian parliament,
whose approval is required for the accord to come into effect. They
said they were prepared to resort to other means of protest if their
message was not heeded.

Armenian Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanian insisted the 50 troops’
mission in Iraq was a humanitarian one and would not include combat.

Immigration officials in Yerevan said around 100 Armenian families
in Iraq have sought temporary asylum in Armenia following last
August’s wave of bomb attacks on churches in Baghdad and Mosul,
in northern Iraq.