Ajarian Leader Tells Azeri TV He Follows Constitution


ANS TV, Baku
15 Mar 04

(Presenter) We had an interview with Ajarian leader Aslan Abashidze
before the news bulletin.

(Correspondent over the phone) Good evening, Aslan Georgiyevich.
(Abashidze) Good evening.

(Correspondent) What is happening in Ajaria and on the administrative

(Abashidze) The situation was difficult, but it is quite now.

(Correspondent) What foreign forces, do you think, are interested in
the escalation of the tension?

(Abashidze) Without a thorough analysis and without documents, we can
only make assumptions. But these forces did not come on their own.

(Correspondent) Aslan Ibragimovich, we learned that Armenian President
Robert Kocharyan had phoned you several times in the past two
days. What did he want, if it is not a secret?

(Abashidze) I received no such calls. I had a call several days ago,
before my trip to Moscow. They phoned on the day of Saakashvili’s
visit to Yerevan. An aircraft of a businessman took off from here
(presumably to Yerevan) as well. Presumably, there was a report at
Yerevan’s airport about this, so they wanted to know who is flying –
was it Abashidze or somebody else. They were told the aircraft
belonged to an individual. That is all.

(Correspondent) How is the situation going to develop after the expiry
of an ultimatum?

(Abashidze) I have not heard about the ultimatum and have not thought
about it. I don’t understand when people within a country talk to each
other in the language of ultimatums, to put it mildly. I do not pay
any attention to such things. I am following the constitution.

Armenian-Spanish Collaboration on Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology

Fuel Cell Today, UK
March 16 2004

Armenian-Spanish Collaboration on Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology
16 March 2004

Author: INASMET – Press Release
Provider: Fuel Cell Today

Under the auspices of the Strategic Plan for Materials and Energy
being carried out by the Spanish INASMET, the Armenian Institute of
Chemistry & Physics of the National Academy of Sciences has signed a
joint working agreement on order to make progress in one of the
future energy sources such as fuel cells based on using hydrogen.
This alternative energy source to fossil fuels (petroleum and its
derivatives) has, amongst other advantages, that of being
non-contaminant, given that the only by-product is water due to the
combustion of hydrogen. Energy user sectors such as automotive one
and aeronautic are the most likely beneficiaries of this alternative

On the occasion of the signing of the joint co-operation contract and
in order to continue work started in 1999 between both bodies,
professor S. Kharatyan, the sub-director of the Armenian Institute,
accompanied by researcher, doctor A. Sargyan, have visited Inasmet
Technological Centre.

The agreement involves the development of SHS (Self-propagating
High-temperature Synthesis) technology that has relevant applications
in the industrial sector (energy and metallurgy), in obtaining
enhanced-specification materials at competitive prices. The technical
team at INASMET already has ten years of experience in this
speciality and applications widely accepted industrially have been
obtained, such as powders for special coatings or high-specification
porous materials.

One aspect of the new agreement – more directly related to hydrogen
energy – will be the development of new production methods for metal
hydrides as raw material for fuel cells, given that they are an
efficient form of “storing” hydrogen through SHS technology.

The Armenian Institute of Chemistry & Physics, founded in 1975, is
developing new lines of technological research, initiated in Moscow,
amongst the advantages of which are those involving simplicity,
rapidity and low energy consumption throughout the whole process.

In 1999 the first steps were taken for the joint enterprise between
INASMET and the Armenian institution in order to obtain cermets,
materials composed of ceramic and metal for applications in extreme
operating conditions. The first relevant steps in that two different
research teams and professionals from two distinct cultures have come
together and, apart from overcoming language barriers, the Armenians
in particular have had to go through work permit procedures under
very difficult conditions. With the signing of this agreement, many
of these difficulties have been overcome and there are very positive
expectations for both partners for advancement in these technologies.

There Are No Special Favourites in The Tournament


Azat Artsakh – Republic of Nagorno Karabakh (NKR)

Yanik Palatier has arrived from far Switzerland to take part in the
international chess tournament devoted to the 75th anniversary of
Tigran Petrossian. Before coming to Karabakh he knew nothing of this
small country besides that there had been war here. The Swiss
chess-player told about his decision to read corresponding books to
get acquainted with the events that took place in Karabakh. He did not
speak about his impressions as he has not managed to see the town
yet. Only once he had the opportunity to walk in the central street of
Stepanakert. He said it still can be felt that there was war here. He
mentioned that the first impression was good, the tournament is
organized on a high level, the hotel conditions are good, and he
pointed out the warm and friendly atmosphere. The Swiss young man has
been to Yerevan for several times and has many friends
there. According to him, the Armenians are very warm, proud and
hospitable. In reference to the chess tournament held in Stepanakert
for the first time, he appreciated the level of organization. He
mentioned that there areno special favourites, and according to him
the competition will be hard. He mentioned that he was not acquainted
with all the participants of the tournament. He did not know Tigran
Petrossian and Arman Pashikian but following their games he mentioned
that the games of the both were very interesting. The young
chess-player representing Switzerland has 0.5 point after two rounds.


Armenian IT sector develops at slower paces than expected

ARKA News Agency – Interview
March 10 2004


Exclusive interview with Andranik Aleksanian, Director General of
Arminco Global Telecommunications to ARKA News Agency.

ARKA- What can you say about the Armenian IT market of the previous
year? What is the position of Armenia in the region?

A. Aleksanian- In 2003, the IT sector could have grown by 20%, though
the actual growth was within 5-10%. This testifies to the fact that
the IT-sector develops parallel to the economy, but at slower paces
than may be. We are behind the world tendencies. In the regions, the
problem of the IT development is even more urgent, because of poor
transport and electronic communications, plus lack of specialists and
high cost of installation of communication lines. For example, the
cost of a 2 Mbit line from Yerevan to Gyumri is some $1600 per month.
This impedes business development in the regions, though there is
some growth, and `the frozen state’ has been overcome.

As to the state of the IT in the South Caucasian region, then the our
neighbors are doing principally better than we are . We are behind
Georgia and Azerbaijan as to the infrastructure and communications,
though we are in a better position, as regards the professional
level. That is, we have a good potential to occupy a solid place in
the IT sector of the region. But, we need a model of development,
especially since the IT industry has been declared a priority by the
RA Government.

ARKA- What is your evaluation of the IT-sector strategy (as to the
development model), recently submitted to the Armenian President?

A. Aleksanian- I am aware of the strategy. On the whole, it is
comprised of good and correct provisions. To develop the sector, the
President has set the task to integrate it into the global system.
There are rules of the game, and respective infrastructure and
specialists are needed to ensure the integration. All this brings to
the necessity of a law that will determine the tasks and goals, as
well as legislatively-fixed guarantees for an investor. The IT is not
just an Internet or software development . It assumes an entire
industry with specialists, developed infrastructures and
communications. In particular, the availability of the normal
infrastructure will resolve a lot of problems and will prevent
emigration. At least 5 years are required to attain the goal, and the
generation should change, I think. The technological process we have
now will be out-of-date the next year. In this respect, a `polygon’
should be created for specialists to introduce new technologies. The
period of 5 years is a normal term for training specialists. This is
the period, when the potential will be created. I think that any
problem may be resolved, if the task is set correctly. And in the
long run, nothing can prevent us from developing software in Armenia,
the way India does.

ARKA- What expectation do you have from the law on e-communications?

A. Aleksanian- We need a law that will serve the interests of both
investors, consumers and the country, as a whole. We need not `invent
a wheel’ in this regard. If Singapore and Taiwan managed to grow with
certain arrangements, we may make use of them and achieve success if
not at 100% level, then at least for 50%.. I think it is not that
important to draft a new law, it will be more significant to adopt
someone’s experience and put it into practice correctly. I am for the
above-mentioned, as I am not aware of positive or negative sides of
the law on e-communications.
I do not think it is correct to provide the IT-sector with greater
privileges, as compared to other economic branches. Once we decided
to make the sector a priority, we should organize the process in such
a way, as to enable specialists of other professions to make use of
IT-technologies. Provision of benefits or privileges to the Armenian
IT industry is an incorrect policy, which will ruin the economy.
ARKA- What are the financial results, reported by your company for
2003. Is there any growth as compared to the previous year? What new
services do you plan to provide in 2004?

A. Aleksanian- Theoretically, we have had some growth, though this
growth has been achieved at a high cost. Outside Armenia, it is very
easy to make the business and gain profits. In Armenia, this is not
the growth we could have achieved. We had planned to create 50 new
jobs, cut expenses, expand the infrastructure and introduce new
technologies, though we failed because of the problems with ArmenTel.
We did not manage to expand our clientele in the regions of Armenia.
I will not specify the turnover, though I can state that we report a
10% growth annually. We could have had a better growth, though 10% is
a good index under the conditions of stagnation. In other countries,
the growth index reaches 50-60%.

In 2003, we had to reduce our tariffs, because of ArmenTel’s policy.
We acquire a certain services from the ArmenTel, though we get fewer
discounts than smaller clients. Some of the ArmenTel’s employees have
no idea of the business they are in, and the shortcomings in our work
are on their conscience.
As to the new services, then we plan to introduce some of those in
2004. The first service is the radio-modem communications (enabling
to work from any place). This year, we are going to resolve the
problem in Yerevan. We are going to install the first 5,000
radio-modems in various parts of Yerevan in summer and get rid of
ArmenTel, in this regard. The second service will enable our clients
to access Internet and check mail through a cellular phone. We also
plan to expand our services in the regions of Armenia and we are
negotiating with ArCa and some commercial banks to launch the payment
for our services with plastic cards in ATMs.

ARKA- What about the development e-trade, as a form of

A. Aleksanian- E-commerce may not develop here because of the lack of
the corresponding law and infrastructure. The system may work,
provided that there is one of the attributes present. There is no
bank-shop-client relationship. We need a law on e-trade, which would
enable to make trade transactions through ArCa plastic cards. In
other countries, the problem is resolved easily. Soon, the Armenian
Chamber of Commerce and Industry plans to make a legislative
initiative, to prevent further complication of the problem. I think
that the e-trade will develop only after the adoption of the law.

ARKA- Was there any progress in the Internet advertisement in 2003?

A. Aleksanian- The advertisement business in the Internet is designed
for regular Internet users. However, this type of advertisement is
not in demand in Armenia, because of the restricted number of the
users. On the whole, Internet advertisement has its own place – it
neither grows nor decreases. The Internet advertisement’s share is
1-3% of the Armenian advertisement market.

ARKA- You mentioned above that there were some problems due to
ArmenTel Company’s activities. What is your policy in respect to
ArmenTel and what do you think on possible appearance of the second
cellular communications operator in Armenia?

A. Aleksanian – I have been in this business for 10 years and have
invested all my funds and health. The thing is that the business
generally results in profit in the world, unlike Armenia where it
brings in losses. We have to struggle for our share all the time –
and not just seek investment, but demand definite services from
ArmenTel. This is not an organization, this is a `mistake’. Here are
two examples. Two years ago I applied in writing to ArmenTel with a
request to provide me with a communication line in the regions. I
even allocated the funds immediately, and they (ArmenTel) provided
that line to others. But, this is not the point, the point is that
you have to wait for 2 years to get the long expected line.
It is impossible to collaborate with the organization. I used to try
to settle the issue peacefully, and now I have decided to go to court
directly, with all the problems relating to the ArmenTel. Any small
issue, impeding my activities will be settled in the Court from now
on. I shall apply to the Court, in case if they fail to reply my
inquiry in the set terms. At the moment, I have got two replies to
100 letters, sent to ArmenTel. I see no other technology of dealing
with this Company. On the whole, I am going to sue ArmenTel at a few
million dollars. In February, I plan to bring the first sue.
The organization with all its officials (no matter who they are
-Armenians or Greeks) is destroying the country premeditatedly. I can
state that they do not want Armenia to develop.
I think that the arrival of the second operator will not resolve the
problems, as the organization will be entitled to provide cellular
communications’ services only, and the cable network will remain at
the disposal of the ArmenTel Company.

“We were friends with Tigran Petrossian” Vasilevich

Azat Artsakh, Republic of Nagorno Karabakh
March 10 2004


– Boris Vasilevich, I want to greet you in the name of the staff of
the newspaper “Azat Artsakh” and the people of Artsakh. We are glad
to see you in Karabakh. What did you know about Karabakh before
coming here?
– Thank you for your warm returns and words. I am happy that I could
visit your highlands, breathe its clean air, meet with the people
living on this land. I think I will have time to get a closer
acquaintance with all this and evaluate what I have seen. I have
heard about Karabakh, I knew about the military actions in the
1990’s. You know war is tragedy. Let there only be peace in this

– In your opinion, to what extent has sport been transformed into
business today?
– I would say this is a process that started long ago. Sport is more
and more acquiring a commercial character. I cannot say for sure but
I think this also refers to chess. This tournament, however, has
nothing to do with it, it is free from being commercialized. And we
all are content with this. I should say that the tournaments for the
championship of the world are more of commercial nature. These have
always been connected with huge sums even before. In any way, I am
not the specialist to give an exact answer to the question.

– Are there differences in sport of your times and today?
– Again we will come to the problem of commercialization. Take
tennis, for example. Thirty years ago money had no role in this
sport, whereas today huge sums are circulated there. The same is with
any new sport. But this is not the case with the Olympic games.
Fortunately the prizes for world records have been increased. For
example, track and field athletics. Today, if I am not mistaken, the
winner of the 100-m sprint receives 53 thousand dollars. Although
this also may be considered little.

– What do you think, are there unfair games in chess?
– From my personal experience I cannot mention any. It is difficult
to say what happens with others. This should be known for sure. Many
people think there are unfair games. But I do not know why and how.

– Who was Tigran Petrossian for you? Were you just rivals or were you
in friendly relationships?
– Unfortunately the extracts we watched in the hall were very short.
Still in 1963 it became known that Tigran Petrossian bears a gigantic
chess power in himself. At that time it was not so easy for
Botvinnik. Although Botvinnik was not the chess-player number 1 in
the world. He was a king for a long time but he did not reign. Today
I recall the years 1966-69. I have lots of memories connected with
Tigran Petrossian. Despite the competition for the title of champion
we were good friends. The talent of Tigran Petrossian was unique.
With his sharp mind he saw a lot on the chessboard. He was very
strong in defence and felt the attack of his rival very quickly. It
happened that during the games with him the moment for him was a
matter of life and death. Whereas in such moments I was flying in the
clouds… I should say I was young then and had a devil-may-care
attitude. My main problem was to take a good sleep before the game.
It turns out Tigran Petrossian lived a difficult life. You know it
was not easy to be the champion of the world, the hero if his nation
during such a difficult period. At the same time Tigran Petrossian
was the editor-in-chief of the leading chess magazine published then.
That is to say, in this aspect too he was an important person in the
world of chess. Nevertheless, Petrossian was a very modest person. He
had a phenomenal unique talent, a fantastic sense of humour which the
other world champions did not have.

– Your returns to the people of Artsakh.
– Let them fight only on the chessboard. And nowhere else. This is
the most important.

Int’l chess tournament opened in Stepanakert

Azat Artsakh, Republic of Nagorno Karabakh
March 10 2004


FIDE has announced 2004 the year of the ninth champion of the world
Tigran Petrossian. On this occasion the NKR authorities and the RA
Academy of Chess organized the international chess tournament devoted
to the 75th anniversary of Tigran Petrossian. The tournament was
opened on March 8 in Stepanakert. The participants met with the NKR
president Arkady Ghukassian, prime minister Anoushavan Danielian,
members of government, members of the National Assembly and others.
The participants of the tournament are headed by the tenth champion
of the world Boris Spassky. In the name of the NKR authorities the
NKR minister of education, culture and sport greeted the participants
and wished them success. The minister characterized the tournament of
this level as an unprecedented event in the sport life of Artsakh.
“This is the case when we prove that Artsakh tries to achieve new
successes in sport, whereas the problem that the country is not
recognized hinders the development of sport. However, the tournament
filled us with the hope that Artsakh is able to achieve heights and
organize new and other similar tournaments.” The participants of the
ceremony watched the film about Tigran Petrossian. Then the message
of the chairman of FIDE Kirsan Ilyumzhinov was read. The tenth
champion of the world greeted the guests and thanked the organizers
of the tournament characterizing it as a truly big event in the world
of chess. “This championship woke joyful memories in my mind
connected with the events of 1966, 1969 in the world of chess. Today
the spirit of Tigran Petrossian is felt in this hall…” Once the rival
of Tigran Petrossian, today speaks with great enthusiasm about him,
telling about their games for the chess crown. The grand masters
participating in the tournament represent seven countries.


Toronto: Vocal Recitals will return to RTH this fall

Toronto Star
March 12 2004

Entertainment: spotlight
[parts omitted]

Vocal Recitals will return to RTH this fall

Toronto’s highest powered vocal series, Roy Thomson Hall’s
International Vocal Recitals, returns in the fall with a four-event
lineup, opening Sept. 26 with a performance of Franz Schubert’s Die
Winterreise (Winter Journey) cycle sung by the German-born baritone
Matthias Goerne, already hailed as the “Prince of Lieder.” The
popular American mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade returns Nov. 10 in
her first Toronto recital in five years, followed by the Italian
tenor Salvatore Licitra, Jan. 22, 2005. One of Canada’s fastest
rising singers, Armenian-Canadian soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian, closes
the series, May 8, 2005.

AAA: Armenia This Week – 03/12/2004

Friday, March 12, 2004

Georgia’s President Mikheil Saakashvili arrived in Yerevan this Friday for
his first-ever official visit to Armenia. On the first day of a two-day
visit, Saakashvili met with President Robert Kocharian and other senior
officials, and visited the Armenian Genocide memorial.

The 36-year-old Saakashvili led a popular revolt against President Eduard
Shevardnadze last November. Saakashvili has since been elected President
with virtually no opposition, collecting over 95 percent of the vote. The
Armenian President’s political opponents said they would try to force
Kocharian’s resignation by emulating events in Georgia [see the next story],
but most observers believe that circumstances in the two countries are not
similar enough for this to happen.

Speaking at a joint press conference with Kocharian, Saakashvili praised
Kocharian as “a very active president, well aware of the problems [he
faces],” and that Armenia was “lucky to have such a president and the
Government.” He added that Georgia had much to learn from Armenia,
particularly from the experience of its armed forces and law-enforcement.

Interviewed by Armenian journalists on the eve of the visit, Saakashvili
offered his vision of economic integration between Georgia and Armenia. “It
is the [elimination] of all customs obstacles, setting common tariffs,
cutting them down and full cancellation in certain cases… It is
[ridiculous] that people have to wait 40-60 minutes at the border to cross
from Armenia to Georgia. It is unacceptable, unserious; it is a leftover of
feudalistic regime. We need free transit of both people and goods. (For
this) we need a common legal system… Today each one of our countries,
taken separately, is weak, for the market needs expansion, larger space.”

Saakashvili suggested that he would try to advance settlement of the
conflict with the breakaway republic of Abkhazia through economic
cooperation and specifically through opening of the Georgia-Russia railroad,
which is also of strategic importance to Armenia. Saakashvili also argued
for coordination of Armenian and Georgian policies towards Europe, Russia
and the United States. He suggested that Armenia could play a role in
improving of Georgian-Russian relations, while Georgia could do the same
with Turkey.

Turning to the problems faced by the Armenian community in Georgia,
particularly in Javakhk, Saakashvili pledged to improve the regional road
infrastructure, clamp down on corruption and secure European loans to
jump-start the local economy. According to the recent Georgian census, in
the last decade close to one-third of the 440,000-strong Armenian community,
centered in Javakhk and Tbilisi, has emigrated. But the community continues
to maintain 154 schools, 13 churches, 4 newspapers and a state-funded
theater. (Sources: Armenia This Week 1-16, 30; Arminfo 3-11, 12; Azg 3-12)

Armenian opposition parties have begun preparations for what they hope would
become a “popular revolution” leading to the early ouster of President
Robert Kocharian, whose term in office expires in 2008. The three main
groups led by Parliament members Stepan Demirchian, Artashes Geghamian and
Aram Sargsian, have so far acted largely independent of each other, holding
separate public meetings in small towns and villages and telling people that
Kocharian would soon resign under public pressure.

Meeting with students of Yerevan universities this week, Kocharian defended
his record in office, pointing to the strong economic recovery of recent
years and dismissing opposition claims that the country was in the middle of
a political crisis. Meanwhile, Kocharian’s ally Prime Minister Andranik
Margarian ordered a counteroffensive, sending members of his cabinet to hold
public meetings in the economically hardest-hit towns and villages
previously toured by the opposition.

A recent survey conducted with U.S. funding found that the overall poverty
level in Armenia decreased from 55% in 1996 to just under half of the
population in 2002. The share of “very poor” people decreased from 27 to
13%. The study also found that there was more poverty in urban (53%) than
rural areas (45%) and that there was even stronger disparity between Yerevan
(44%) and smaller towns (62%).

The opposition’s tactic appears to be to mobilize the latent popular
discontent over economic conditions and official corruption into mass street
rallies in Yerevan to mirror last year’s protests in Georgia. One of the
world’s foremost political risk experts, the Economist, predicted last week
that while political tensions in Armenia will remain high, opposition’s
efforts will be frustrated by their own disunity and positive economic
trends. “We therefore expect Mr. Kocharian.. to remain in power through
2005,” it concluded. (Sources: Armenia This Week 2-6, 20; The Economist
Intelligence Unit 3-4; Arminfo 3-10, 11; “Social snapshot and poverty..,”
the National Statistics Service, 2004)

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PM concerned over aging scientists

March 12 2004


YEREVAN, MARCH 12, ARMENPRESS: Armenian prime minister Andranik
Margarian praised today the work of the National Academy of Sciences
for its huge activities to present the country to the international
community. Speaking at the annual meeting of the Academy, the prime
minister said the government is ready to discuss with scientists ways
to improve science management and reform the sector, but expressed
his concerns over the aging staff of universities and research
One of the ways to improve this situation, according to the prime
minister, is that all post-graduate and doctoral students should work
for their alma maters. One of the good news was his announcement that
research institutes staff are going to get higher wages beginning
from mid-year. The overall staff of Academy-affiliated institutes is
3,911 people, by 484 fewer than a year ago.