U.S Diplomat Warns that Fair Elections Key to Remaining Eligible for



YEREVAN, JANUARY 24, ARMENPRESS: A senior U.S. diplomat warned today
in Yerevan that his government would revise the decision to allocate
a hefty $236 million in extra aid to Armenia if its authorities fail
to hold free and just parliamentary elections, slated for May.

Anthony Godfrey, U.S. Charge d’Affaires in Armenia, said to a news
conference that the Board of Trustees handling the multi-billion
U.S. government aid to developing nations, known as the Millennium
Challenges Account (MCA), would never hesitate to meet to revise
Armenia’s eligibility should the May polls be marred with vote-rigging
and other irregularities.

He said Armenia will fall out of the program in case it fails to meet
any of other mandatory requirements, but added that he is optimistic
and believes that the May elections will be free and clean. Godfrey
said in the State of the Union Address yesterday president George
W. Bush called on Congress to release assistance to those nations that
make progress in democracy building and combating corruption. He said
this applies to Armenia as well.

Alex Rusin, head of Millennium Challenges Account-Armenia Office, said
the latter will engage this year in design of irrigation an road repair
projects and will also provide some assistance to farmers, adding that
major construction works will start later. He praised the ‘excellent’
work of the Armenian team. The MCA Compact, signed on March 27, 2006
with Entry into Force on September 29, 2006, aims to reduce rural
poverty through a sustainable increase in the economic performance of
the agricultural sector. Armenia plans to achieve this goal through a
five-year program of strategic investments in rural roads, irrigation
infrastructure and technical and financial assistance to improve the
supply of water and to support farmers and agribusinesses.

The program will directly impact approximately 750,000 people, or
an estimated 75 percent of the rural population, and is expected to
reduce the rural poverty rate and boost annual incomes. The Compact
includes a USD 67 million project to rehabilitate up to 943 kilometers
of rural roads, more than a third of Armenia’s proposed "Lifeline
Road Network." When complete, the road network will ensure that every
rural community has road access to markets, services, and the main road
network. Under the Compact, the Government of Armenia will be required
to commit additional resources for maintenance of the road network.

The Compact also includes a USD 146 million project to increase the
productivity of approximately 250,000 farm households (34% of which
are headed by women) through improved water supply, higher yields,
higher-value crops, and a more competitive agricultural sector.