ASBAREZ ONLINE [12-08-2004]

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12/08/2004
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1) ANCC, ARF Canada Youth Organization at Liberal Party Convention
2) Clerics Condemn Church Bombings
3) Karabagh President Awards Canadian Armenian Photographer Hawk Khatcherian
4) Armenian Court Gives Green Light for Iraq Deployment
5) BRIEFS

1) ANCC, ARF Canada Youth Organization at Liberal Party Convention

YEREVAN (Yerkir)–The Armenian National Committee of Canada (ANCC) and the
Youth Organization of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF), Canada
participated in convention of the ruling Liberal Party of Canada, on
December 2
in Toronto.
Addressing the convention, Prime Minister Paul Martin spoke of the relations
between his country and the United Sates, as well as the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict, and Iraq elections.
Meeting with Prime Minister Martin and Defense Minister Bill Graham, the ANCC
representatives addressed the issue of opening a Canadian embassy in Armenia
and including Armenia in the Canadian International Development Agency’s
projects.

2) Clerics Condemn Church Bombings

MOSUL (Combined Sources)The attack on Mosul’s Chaldean and Armenian
churches on
Tuesday did not go unnoticed by religious heads. Condemning the violence,
Catholicos Karekin II of the Holy See of Etchimiadzin, warned of a “danger to
the centuries-old co-existence of the Christian and Islamic peoples” of Iraq,
and urged Iraqi spiritual leaders to prevent the continuing unrest in the
country from degenerating into a religious conflict.
Karekin II’s alarm was echoed by Pope John Paul II on Wednesday. “I
express my
spiritual closeness to the faithful, shocked by the attacks,” John Paul said,
speaking from his apartment window above St. Peter’s Square on the Roman
Catholic feast of the Immaculate Conception.
The harshest condemnation of Tuesday’s attacks, however, came from Aram I,
Catholicos of the Holy See of Cilicia. “One cannot understand fully and
accurately the history of the Middle East, with its upheavals and tensions,
challenges and achievements, without the Christian-Moslem co-existence which
remains a vital dimension of the history of this region,” His Holiness noted.
“In fact, Christianity and Islam have made a significant contribution to the
history of the Middle East, particularly in the areas of culture, science,
civilization and politics.
“The centuries old Christian Moslem co-existence has developed mutual
understanding and trust among the peoples of the region. That is why I often
remind our Western friends that Christian-Moslem dialogue in the Middle
East is
not an intellectual notion, but an existential reality and an integral part of
the daily life of the people. And, in view of the growing concern for
Christian-Moslem dialogue, I often remind our friends in the West that
Christian-Moslem dialogue in our part of the world is deeply rooted in our
common history. For centuries, not only Christians and Moslems have talked to
each other, but they have lived together, worked together, dreamed and
struggled together and have sustained their life by common moral and human
values,” said Aram I.
Referring specifically to the attacks, the Catholicos stated: “I cannot
understand and accept these bombings of churches in Iraq. How such a thing
happens between followers of two religions who have lived together for
centuries as one community and as good neighbors. I cannot understand such an
attitude towards Christians who have been inseparable part of the Middle
Eastern society and have played a major role in all aspects of the society
life. I consider these bombings serious attempts aimed at endangering the
Christian-Moslem co-existence, undermining the importance of common values and
aspirations which have sustained the life of the Middle Eastern societies, and
questioning the importance of human rights and religious liberties. Such
attempts also underestimate the unity of the Arab world and the credibility of
the Arab cause. Therefore, I urge and appeal to the leaderships of Christian
and Moslem communities in Iraq to come together and to re-affirm the
Christian-Moslem co-existence as well as their national unity.”
Numbering 1.2 million, the country’s Christian community has been subject to
several attacks since the onset of violence within the country. On November 8,
at least three people were killed and 45 wounded when two suspected car bombs
exploded within minutes of each other outside two churches in southern
Baghdad.
In a coordinated assault on August 1, six car bombs killed 10 people and
injured 50 others outside churches in Baghdad and Mosul.

3) Karabagh President Awards Canadian Armenian Photographer Hawk Khatcherian

STEPANAKERT (Combined Sources)–Mountainous Karabagh Republic President Arkady
Ghukasian awarded well-known Canadian Armenian photographer Hrair Khatcherian
the prestigious “Gratitude” medal on December 8 for his notable contributions
to the development of Karabagh’s culture, since the onset of the Karabagh
national liberation struggle.
Khatcherian remarked that Karabagh provides a source of creative inspiration
not only for him, but also for all art and cultural activists in the diaspora.
Presenting one of his works to the President, Khatcherian thanked Ghukasian
for the high praise.
Khatcherian has made photographic voyages to Artsakh on various occasions
almost every year from 1992-1999, his vision motivated by the natural
beauty of
the mountains and the fields, the rich farms and historic villages, the
ancient
churches and monasteries of Artsakh. He has also visited Armenia, Turkey,
Georgia, Romania, Lebanon, Cyprus, and the Island of St. Lazzaro in Venice,
Italy.
Born in Beirut, Lebanon, Khatcherian always dreamt of becoming a pilot as a
child. Instead, he spent most of his time in school fiddling with cameras,
snapping pictures of anyone and anything that was around.
His dream finally came true in 1982, when he moved to the United States, and
became a certified commercial pilot. He returned to Lebanon to pursue his
dream, but because things did not go as planned, he returned to the US.
He then moved to Toronto, Canada in 1984, dedicating himself to freelance
photography. He first visited his ancestral land in 1992. “Psychologically, I
was prepared to visit Armenia along time before my first visit,” says Hrair of
that trip. With his photographs, he tried to capture the everyday life of
Armenians.
Diagnosed with cancer in 1993, Hrair was in a stage so advanced, that he was
given one week to live. His only option was enduring heavy doses of
chemotherapy. On his 32nd birthday, he attended his first session. After five
more sessions and a bone marrow transplant, he pulled through, calling it his
“rebirth.”
During his illness, the people of Karabagh and their troubles constantly
occupied Khatcherian’s mind, making him even more determined to survive to
return to Armenia; and ever since, he has returned many times.
In 1997, he published his first album, Artsakh: A photographic Journey–the
story of Artsakh in 200 color photographs: its land, its monuments, its
people,
its culture, and its struggle. Khatcherian captured the vitality of the people
and the courage of their struggle to be free.
The story of Artsakh is witnessed in these remarkable photos. Between the
covers of this book, one will also find the story of Artsakh. It is carved in
stone and written in books, scratched into the sides of hills; recorded in the
village graveyards.
Hrair “Hawk” Khatcherian has used his camera to portray an ancient and
beautiful civilization in an ancient and beautiful land. When asked about the
nickname Hawk, Hrair explains that as a child in school, he had an American
pen
pal who had trouble pronouncing his name, so she asked him to come up with a
nickname. Having a particular interest in birds, he decided to call himself
Hawk. The nickname stuck, and now even appears on his passport. He says he
feels a connection with this bird: they both like to fly, they both have good
eyesight (in Hrair’s case, to see a photo opportunity), and they both like to
be alone when choosing a target.

4) Armenian Court Gives Green Light for Iraq Deployment

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Armenia’s Constitutional Court gave the government the green
light on Wednesday to send Armenian non-combat troops to Iraq, paving the way
for a debate on the issue in parliament.
Some members of parliament hold serious misgivings about the wisdom of such a
deployment, sharing concerns about the security of Iraq’s Armenian community.
But Defense Minister Serge Sarkisian brushed aside those concerns as he
addressed the panel of nine judges. “Armenia could not have stayed isolated
from regional developments,” he said. “Hence, the Armenian authorities’
decision to participate in the process of Iraq’s stabilization.”
Sarkisian warned that Armenia’s failure to follow neighboring Azerbaijan’s
and
Georgia’s example and join the US-led “coalition of the willing” in Iraq
“could
create certain obstacles to a further expansion of Armenia’s cooperation in
the
international arena.” He did not elaborate.
The one-day court hearing centered on an agreement between Poland and 18
other
countries that have troops in a Polish-led multinational division controlling
south-central Iraq. Armenian President Kocharian promised to place about 50
Armenian military doctors, sappers and truck drivers under Polish command
during a visit to Warsaw last September. The Constitutional Court found that
the agreement does not run counter to the Armenian constitution.
Sarkisian said Yerevan will sign up to the document on the condition that
Armenian military personnel take part only in “defensive and humanitarian
activities” and avoid joint contact with a larger Azerbaijani contingent.
“Performance of joint tasks with the contingent of Azerbaijani armed forces
stationed in Iraq will not be acceptable,” he said.
Speaking to reporters afterward, Sarkisian was confident that the National
Assembly would endorse deployment plans endorsed by the US. “I think that the
overwhelming majority of our parliamentarians care about Armenia’s future and
will not make emotional decisions,” he said.
Critics have been warning that an estimated 25,000 Iraqi citizens of Armenian
descent could face retaliatory attacks from Iraqi insurgents once Armenia
becomes part of the US-led occupation force. The insurgents have routinely
kidnapped and killed citizens of countries cooperating with it.
Leaders of the Iraqi Armenians have themselves exhorted Kocharian not to send
any servicemen. Underscoring their fears was Tuesday’s bombing of Armenian and
Chaldean churches in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. News reports said
gunmen
burst in and set off explosions inside the buildings, damaging them but
hurting
no one.
In Yerevan, meanwhile, one of the Constitutional Court judges, Kim Balayan,
wondered if the planned deployment could put the lives of Iraqi Armenians at
greater risk. Sarkisian countered that they will be insecure regardless of
Armenian military presence in Iraq.

5) BRIEFS

CE Committee Report Highlights Ill-Treatment in Azeri Detention Facilities

YEREVAN (Yerkir)–The Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of
Torture (CPT) published Wednesday its first report on Azerbaijan. The report,
concerning the CPT’s periodic visit to Azerbaijan in November/December 200,
concluded that those detained by the police in Azerbaijan run a significant
risk of being ill-treated. The Committee recommends that high priority be
given
to professional training for police officers and that legal safeguards against
ill-treatment be applied. The report also highlights serious shortcomings in
the detention centers, including overcrowding and a lack of constructive
activities for inmates.

EBRD Invests in Armenian Bank

YEREVAN (RFE-RL)–The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD)
purchased on Wednesday a 25 percent share in a major Armenian commercial bank
in line with its pledge to boost direct investments in the country’s private
sector.
Senior EBRD executives said they will pay Armeconombank $1 million and grant
it $500,000 in “technical assistance” as they sealed the deal in Yerevan.
“This
is our first investment [of its kind] in Armenia, and if further opportunities
arise we will certainly consider them,” an EBRD finance director, Maria-Luisa
Cicogniani, told a news conference.

Azerbaijan to Raise 2005 Defense Spending

BAKU (AFP)–Azerbaijan’s defense spending will increase by 30 percent next
year, and may eventually grow by 200 percent, Azeri President Ilham Aliyev
said
late Tuesday, linking the hike to his country’s conflict with neighboring
Armenia.
“Next year, defense spending will be increased to 250 million dollars, which
is 30 percent more than in 2004,” Aliyev told a cabinet meeting. “And in the
future, we will continue to increase defense spending. As long as our land is
occupied,” he added, in a reference to Karabagh.

Armenian Court Gives Green Light for Iraq Deployment

YEREVAN (RFE-RL)–Armenia’s Constitutional Court gave the government the
green
light on Wednesday to send Armenian non-combat troops to Iraq, a deployment
which Defense Minister Serge Sarkisian claimed will spare the country
international isolation.
The ruling paved the way for a debate on the issue in parliament, with some
concerned about the security of Iraq’s Armenian community. But Sarkisian
warned
that Armenia’s failure to follow neighboring Azerbaijan’s and Georgia’s
example
and join the US-led “coalition of the willing” in Iraq “could create certain
obstacles to a further expansion of Armenia’s cooperation in the international
arena.”
Leaders of the Iraqi Armenians have themselves urged Kocharian not to send
any
servicemen. Underscoring their fears was Tuesday’s bombing of Armenian and
Chaldean churches in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.

Russia Lifts Restrictions on Abkhazia Section of Border

MOSCOW (Itar-Tass)–Russia lifted restrictions imposed on the Abhkazian
section of its border, aide to the Russian prime minister Gennady Bukayev said
on Wednesday. “The decision was made over an address of the leadership of the
self-proclaimed republic of Abkhazia and the normalization of the situation in
the republic,” he emphasized.
The Russian side imposed instructions on the Abkhazian border section on
December 2. The railway communication between Moscow and Sukhumi was suspended
on the same day. Growing tensions in Abkhazia caused restrictions of the
border-crossing regime,” Bukayev emphasized. Last Monday Sergei Bagapsh and
Raul Khadzhimba, who are running for the presidency, signed an agreement
uniting in one team for the upcoming new Abkhazian presidential election,
settling an acute political crisis in the self-proclaimed republic.

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