6th session of EU-Armenian parl coop commish to be held in Yerevan

March 12 2004


YEREVAN, MARCH 12, ARMENPRESS: The sixth session of EU-Armenian
parliamentary cooperation commission will open in Yerevan on March
15, to be moderated by Armen Rustamian, the chairman of an Armenian
parliament committee on foreign relations and Ursula Schleikher
(People’s Party of Europe, Germany).
EU representatives will meet the same day with parliament speaker
Arthur Baghdasarian and heads of parliament factions and also with
the chairwoman of the pan-Armenian Hayastan Fund Naira Melkumian.
Germany’s ambassador to Yerevan, Hans Wulf Bartels, who represents
Ireland, the EU presiding country, the head of the European
Commission Delegation to Georgia and Armenia, Torben Holtz and other
EU ambassadors to Armenia will hold a news conference and meet later
with Vladimir Pryakhin, the head of the OSCE in Yerevan.
The session will continue March 16. EU representatives will also
meet with Karabagh parliament speaker Oleg Yesayan, US and Russian
ambassadors to Armenia, the protector of human rights Larisa
Alaverdian. On March 17 EU representatives will be received by
president Kocharian, foreign minister Oskanian and prime minister

Kazakhstan shocked by brutal murder of Armenian officer in Budapest

March 12 2004


YEREVAN, MARCH 12, ARMENPRESS: Foreign minister of Kazakhstan,
Kasimzhomart Tokaev, sent a letter to his Armenian counterpart Vartan
Oskanian to convey his condolences over the brutal murder of an
Armenian officer, Gurgen Margarian, by an Azerbaijani classmate on
February 19 in Budapest.
“The news about the gruesome murder of the Armenian officer in
Budapest has shocked Kazakhs. We condemn the barbaric act of violence
and think that such crimes cannot be justified,” the message runs.

Uruguay parliament recognizes Armenian genocide

March 12 2004


YEREVAN, MARCH 12, ARMENPRESS: The lower chamber of Uruguay’s
parliament approved a bill on March 10, which indirectly recognizes
the Armenian Genocide. The bill calls for April 24 to be “the
commemoration day of Armenians martyred in 1915,” and obligates the
state owned media to “cover those events” on that day.
There is no reference to “genocide” in the wording of the bill,
though parliament speeches in favor of the bill did not avoid calling
the genocide, a “genocide.” The resolution will become a law with the
president’s signature.
In 2000, Uruguay’s Senate unanimously passed a resolution marking
“April 24 a national day of remembrance for the Armenian Genocide.”
In 1965, the Armenian National Committee of Uruguay advanced the
passage of an Armenian Genocide resolution in Uruguay’s
parliament–to mark the first time a country officially recognized
the genocide of Armenians.
At the time, the author of that resolution Senator Dr. Alberto
Sid, said that the bill aimed to register Uruguay’s official position
on the Armenian Genocide as a crime against humanity.
Interestingly, the world’s first April 24 demonstration also took
place in Uruguay, in 1964.

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.

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.

GCC to have astronomy presentation

Glendale News Press
March 12 2004

GCC to have astronomy presentation

NORTHEAST GLENDALE – A lecture and slide presentation on NASA’s
Spitzer Telescope will begin at 6:15 p.m. today at the Cimmarusti
Science Center and Planetarium at Glendale Community College, 1500 N.
Verdugo Road.

The event, sponsored by the Armenian Professional Society, will begin
with a tour of the planetarium, followed by a wine and cheese
reception at 7 p.m. and a slide presentation and lecture at 8.
Special guests will be Larry and Amalia Cimmarusti. Astronomer
Varoujan Gorjian will lead the presentation and lecture.

The tour will be limited to the first 44 reservations. Admission to
the event is $30. For more information and to make a reservation,
e-mail [email protected]

Ryan Carter

Analysis: Iraq’s Shiite-Kurd differences

United Press International
March 12, 2004 Friday 15:06 PM Eastern Time

Analysis: Iraq’s Shiite-Kurd differences


LONDON, March 12 (UPI)

Although Iraq’s interim constitution was endorsed unanimously by the
country’s Governing Council, which represents all sectarian and
ethnic factions, deep divisions are simmering between the Shiite
majority community and the Kurds.

The signing of the document was delayed for three days till this past
Monday due to Shiite objections about the prerogatives and powers
granted to the Kurds, who constitute 20 percent of Iraq’s population
of 25 million.

The Shiite are believed to make up 60 percent of Iraqis.

A source close to the U.S.-sponsored Iraq Governing Council projected
more complications ahead.

“It will be very difficult to achieve consensus between the two sides
over the formation of the future transitional government and the
names of candidates who will enter the enlarged Governing Council
expected to be declared before the official transfer of powers from
the Coalition Authority to Iraqis on July 1st,” the source told
United Press International on condition of anonymity.

The interim constitution will govern Iraq for a transitional phase
until elections are held for a legislative council, which will be
entrusted with drafting the country’s permanent constitution.

The deep differences pitting Shiites against Kurds surfaced on the
eve of the signing of the interim constitution, when five Shiite
council members rejected a clause that fostered Kurdish powers.

“Shiite suspicion about the Kurds’ separatist intentions was the real
and main reason behind their objection,” the source said.

A clause in the interim constitution granted power to two-thirds of
the inhabitants of three Iraqi provinces, referring to Iraq’s
Kurdistan, to veto the country’s future permanent constitution.

The five Shiite council members whose objections delayed the
ratification of the document agreed to sign after consultations with
the leading Shiite religious authority, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who
expressed reservations after the endorsement.

The source said the Shiites and Kurds also disagree over several
other issues, including the naming of new Iraqi ambassadors abroad.
This was the cause of a heated debate this week between Foreign
Minister Hoshiar Zibari, a member of the Kurdish Democratic Party, or
KDP, and Shiite council members.

Senior Shiite cleric Ayatollah Taki al-Mudarissi said in recent press
comments that the clause that refers to the federation in the interim
constitution is tantamount to a “time bomb” that could cause civil
strife in Iraq.

The clause grants the minority Kurdish community the right to reject
the decisions of the majority Arab population, and consequently the
power to influence Iraq’s future status if they opt for secession.

But Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani, head of the Patriotic Union of
Kurdistan, or PUK, and member of the Governing Council, played down
Shiite fears in a recent press declaration.

“It is in the interest of Iraq’s Kurds to choose voluntary union with
the Arab population of Iraq within the framework of national unity
based on democracy, federation and human rights,” Talabani said.

But Kurdish expert and Paris University professor Halkut Hakim
described the powers granted to the Kurds as unprecedented, “whose
dimensions are difficult to predict in a country like Iraq and in the

Evaluating the significance of the event for the Kurds on a historic,
political and moral scale, Hakim said: “It is the third time in
history that the Kurds’ cause and mere existence is placed within a
legal framework — if we exclude the 1920 Sevres treaty, which was
stillborn for both the Kurds and Armenians.”

“The first time was in 1958, when the Iraqi constitution recognized
the existence of the Kurdish people as a separate ethnicity and
community in the country. … The second time was in 1970, under the
self-rule law that recognized officially certain rights for the
Kurds. But the law was annulled four years later,” Hakim said.

At present, Hakim said, “The Kurdish cause was incorporated inside
the official legislation and placed in the preamble of the interim
constitution, which Kurdish representatives helped draft making sure
Kurdish rights are guaranteed.”

He said the document constituted a framework for regularizing future
relations between the Kurdish enclave in northern Iraq and the
central authorities “and at the same time protected the institutions
that Kurds have built since 1991.”

Control of the Kurdish north has been shared between the Talabani’s
PUK and the KDP led by Massoud Barzani after breaking out of
Baghdad’s control in the wake of the 1991 Gulf War.

Hakim noted that recognizing the Kurdish language as Iraq’s second
official language after Arabic is of major legal importance for the
Kurds since they got their self-controlled enclave in 1991.

On the political level, the interim constitution rallied all Kurdish
factions around it, especially because it was the fruit of efforts by
both leading Kurdish parties, the PUK and KDP.

On a morale level, Hakim said, “one can sense the widespread
jubilation and rejoicing among Kurds inside and outside Iraq over the
consecration of the entity they have created in northern Iraq without
official international or regional recognition.”

“There is no doubt that the new constitution consecrated the status
quo in Iraq’s Kurdistan and added momentum to Kurdish hopes and
aspirations in having their own entity,” he added.

In the meantime, trouble is looming over the controversial clause
that gives fewer than 1 million Kurds in a country of 25 million the
power to veto Iraq’s future permanent constitution.

Russian citizens in CIS states preparing to vote in March 14 polls

ITAR-TASS News Agency
March 12, 2004 Friday 8:53 AM Eastern Time

Russian citizens in CIS states preparing to vote in March 14 polls

Chairman of Russia’s Central Electoral Commission Alexander
Veshnyakov said the number of polling stations had increased in
Georgia and Moldova, and that a precinct electoral commission and
eight polling stations were set up in Baikonur, Kazakhstan.

Deputy Defence Minister Igor Puzanov said more than 80,000 people
will be able to vote at 48 polling stations the ministry had set up
in CIS republics.

According to the FSB Border Guard Service, 11 polling places were set
up in Tajikistan and Armenia, and three polling stations at
borderguard groups in Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, which may
receive up to 7,000 voters.

Twenty-one polling stations will be opened in Ukraine where some
62,000 Russians live or work.

In Belarus where 60,000 Russian citizens live, seven polling stations
will function.

Ten polling stations will be available for 80,000 RF citizens living
in Moldova.

In Tajikistan, 20,000 Russians, including border guards and
servicemen from the 201st division, will be able to take part in the
March 14 voting. Advance voting was arranged for remote border
outposts in Tajikistan from March 9.

Kazakhstan has 10 polling stations for 30,000 RF citizens.

In Kyrgyzstan, voting in the March 14 polls is organized in all large
settlements densely populated by Russians. There are some 15,000 RF
citizens in the republic. The servicemen at the Kant air base will
vote on Saturday.

There are two polling stations for RF citizens in Azerbaijan, with a
1,500-strong Russian electorate. They were set up under the Russian
Embassy in Baku and the Daryal Information and Analytical Center
(formerly the Gabalinskaya radar facility).

In Armenia, up to 8,000 RF citizens are expected to take part in the
March 14 election. The republic has ten polling stations, including
the military township of Kanaker where a Russian army unit is
deployed, and in Gyumri, where the headquarters of the 120th military
base is located.

Fifteen polling stations were set up in Georgia, an official at the
Russian Embassy in Tbilisi told Itar-Tass.

By now, part of Russian peacekeepers in Kodori Gorge, Gali district,
Abkhazia, and in Tskhinvali, South Ossetiam have already voted.

Turkmenistan has five voting stations for 63,00 RF citizens. Head of
the consular department of the Russian Embassy in Ashgabad Andrei
Brovarets expressed the hope that the electorate would be more active
compared with the December parliamentary election, at which just
3,000 Russians voted.

Uzbekistan has one polling station, set up at the Russian Embassy in
Tashkent, for more than 17,000 RF citizens. Everything is ready for
the polls, Russian Ambassador to Uzbekistan Farit Mukhametshin told
Itar-Tass. Advance voting took place in four Uzbek cities on March 6
and March 7.

Saakashvili certain Russia will not interfere in Georgia’s affairs

ITAR-TASS News Agency
March 12, 2004 Friday

Saakashvili certain Russia will not interfere in Georgia’s affairs

By Tengiz Pachkoria


Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili is certain that Russia has no
intention of interfering in Georgia’s internal affairs.

Speaking in Tbilisi earlier on Friday before flying to the Armenian
capital Yerevan Saakashvili said, “Russia plans no interference in
Georgia’s internal affairs. President Vladimir Putin made a definite
statement on that score at our meeting in Moscow in February. I trust

Saakashvili was speaking after some local mass media alleged Russia
had the intention to increase the strength of the personnel of its
military base in Adzharia to intervene in the relationship between
Tbilisi and Batumi.