EU Representative for South Caucasus comes to Armenia

ITAR-TASS News Agency
TASS
March 23, 2004 Tuesday

EU Representative for South Caucasus comes to Armenia

By Tigran Liloyan

YEREVAN

EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus Heikki Talvitie will
discuss Armenia’s European integration and political dialog with the
European Union during a three-day working visit to Yerevan, which
began on Tuesday.

Talvitie has met with Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanyan to
discuss prospects for the South Caucasian affiliation to the EU
program “Enlarging Europe: New Neighbors.” The minister thinks that
the European context will be useful in settling regional conflicts.

The Karabakh settlement was a separate item on the agenda.

Talvitie will also meet with the Armenian president and other
officials.

U.S. State Department official to visit Ukraine, Armenia, Azerbaijan

Associated Press Worldstream
March 22, 2004 Monday

U.S. State Department official to visit Ukraine, Armenia, Azerbaijan

WASHINGTON

The top deputy for Secretary of State Colin Powell will visit
Ukraine, Armenia and Azerbaijan this week, the State Department
announced Monday.

Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage will depart Wednesday
for Kiev, Ukraine, and then will travel on to Yerevan, Armenia and
Baku, Azerbaijan, returning to the United States on Saturday, State
Department spokesman Richard Boucher said.

Armitage will meet with senior government officials in all three
countries, as well as political leaders and pro-democracy groups,
Boucher said.

While Ukraine opposed the U.S.-led war on Iraq, it now has the
third-largest non-American contingent there, with 1,650 Ukrainian
troops serving in the Polish-led force patrolling southern Iraq.
Azerbaijan is a key U.S. partner in the Caucasus as the starting
point of an oil pipeline through Georgia to Turkey that is under
construction and has drawn strong Washington support.

The United States last week announced plans to hold joint
U.S.-Azerbaijan military exercises with land and navy forces as part
of two country’s strategic partnership. Officials did not specify
when the exercises would be held.

In Armenia, the United States said earlier this month that it will
provide US$1 million to increase security at the former Soviet
republic’s only nuclear power plant.

Musheg Shaginian, deputy general director of the power plant, said
that the money would be provided as part of a U.S. Department of
Energy program aimed at increasing the safety of nuclear stations in
the former Soviet Union.

Armenia plans to use the funding to help pay for the scheduled
modernization of the plant’s physical defenses aimed at preventing
any terrorist attacks. The work is scheduled to take place between
2004-2005.

ARKA News Agency – 03/23/2004

ARKA News Agency
March 23 2004

Italian Parliament creates group of friendship Italia-Armenia

Monitoring of contact line of NKR and Azeri Armed Forces takes place
without violation of cease fire regime

Seminar «Processes of Public Policy and Their Analysis» to take place
in Yerevan on April 2-3

*********************************************************************

ITALIAN PARLIAMENT CREATES GROUP OF FRIENDSHIP ITALIA-ARMENIA

YEREVAN, March 23. /ARKA/. RA NA Chairman Arthur Baghdasarian and
Italian Ambassador to RA Marco Clementi discussed issues of oncoming
visit of the Speaker in Italy, RA NA told ARKA. Clementi noted that
Italy is very interested in oncoming visit. Particularly, on the
initiative of the Chairman of Chamber of Deputies of Italian
Parliament Peir Ferdinando Casini, group of friendship Italy-Armenia
is being created in Italian Parliament. In the frames of the visit
Armenian delegation will visit Toskana and Venice. L.D. -0 –

*********************************************************************

MONITORING OF CONTACT LINE OF NKR AND AZERI ARMED FORCES TAKES PLACE
WITHOUT VIOLATION OF CEASE FIRE REGIME

STEPANAKERT, March 23. /ARKA/. Regular monitoring of contact line of
NKR and Azeri Armed Forces took place without violation of cease-fire
regime, NKR MFA told ARKA. Monitoring from the position of NKR
Defence Army was conducted by field assistance of OSCE acting
chairman Kennet Pickels (GB) and Gennadi Korj (Ukraine). L.D. -0 –

*********************************************************************

SEMINAR «PROCESSES OF PUBLIC POLICY AND THEIR ANALYSIS» TO TAKE PLACE
IN YEREVAN ON APRIL 2-3

YEREVAN, March 23. /ARKA/. Seminar «Processes of Public Policy and
Their Analysis» will take place in Yerevan on April 2-3. The seminar
is organized by Caucasus Research Resource Centers-Armenia. The
seminar envisages discussion of the following issues – joining of
experts and process of development of public policy, organization and
management of independent analysis of public policy, freedom of
information, transparency and role of mass media in public policy.
Public organizations, research and educational institutions and
representatives of administration and legislation bodies will take
part in the work of the seminar. L.D. -0 –

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03/23/2004
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1) EU Envoy Discusses Pending Reforms, Karabagh Regulation
2) New Coalition in Armenia Examines Armenian Case
3) Turkey Allows Certain Foreigners to Purchase Land
4) Armenians in Venice to Highlight Save Venice 2004
5) Students walk out as AGBU Announces Melkonian Closure

1) EU Envoy Discusses Pending Reforms, Karabagh Regulation

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–The European Union’s (EU) chief representative to the South
Caucasus Heikki Talvitie, who is in Yerevan on a regular fact-finding tour of
the region, met with Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian and the two deputy
speakers of the Armenian parliament. The anticipated inclusion of the three
Caucasian states in the EU’s Wider European program of privileged ties with
new
neighbors was again high on the agenda of the talks.
Talvitie said that he discussed with vice-speakers Tigran Torosian and Vahan
Hovannisian efforts to amend Armenia’s constitution and a controversial
government bill on public gatherings pending debate in the National Assembly.
Torosian said that the draft legislation will fully correspond to European
principles and standards before presented to parliament for consideration. He
said it is currently being examined by the Venice Commission of the Council of
Europe which monitors legislative reforms in Armenia.
Unlike the Council of Europe, the EU until recently avoided close involvement
in the promotion of Armenia’s democratization, but indicated last January its
readiness to extend the Wider Europe initiative to Armenia, Azerbaijan and
Georgia. Membership in the scheme would require commitments on both economic
and political reform from the three ex-Soviet states.
A senior member of the Armenian parliament, ARF’s Armen Rustamian, announced
last week that Yerevan is ready to assume them. Torosian echoed the pledge.
“It
is obvious that we don’t pass this stage successfully, talk of a future
membership of the European Union will remain a wishful thinking,” he said.
Oskanian, for his part, told the EU envoy that the Wider Europe strategy will
facilitate a peaceful resolution of the conflicts in Mountainous Karabagh and
elsewhere in the region. A Foreign Ministry statement said he and Talvitie had
a “detailed” discussion on Karabagh. Talvitie also held a separate meeting
with
Deputy Foreign Minister Tatul Markarian, who represents Armenia in the
Karabagh
peace talks; the two mainly discussed regulation of the conflict.

2) New Coalition in Armenia Examines Armenian Case

TURKEY MUST PROVIDE FINANCIAL AND MORAL RESTITUTION, SAYS ARF’S MANOYAN

A new coalition of Eastern Studies Experts, who have united to examine the
Armenian Case, met on Tuesday at Yerevan State University to discuss the
Armenian Case in a contemporary light, and priorities of Armenian National
Committee (ANC) offices. Armenian Revolutionay Federation (ARF) Bureau
Political and Hai Tahd Office Director Giro Manoyan, presented the activities
of the Washington, DC, Moscow, and Brussels ANC offices that primarily advance
Armenian Genocide recognition issues, and strive to protect the rights of
Armenians in Mountainous Karabagh Republic and Javakhk.
Various countries have already passed legislation recognizing the Armenian
Genocide, informed Manoyan, but the ANC strives to gain the support of an
increasing number of countries.
Speaking about the Turkish Armenian Reconciliation Commission (TARC), Manoyan
said that it counters the work of the ANC–not because the ARF opposes
reconciliation, but objects to TARC’s approach. “Nowhere in the purpose of
that
commission is the recognition of the Armenian Genocide.”
Addressing the recent denial of the Armenian Genocide by the UK Ambassador to
Armenia, Manoyan found her actions not only unacceptable but also offensive to
all Armenians. “It is nothing but failed diplomacy,” he said. The ambassador’s
statement that the 1915 massacre of more than one million Armenians in Ottoman
Turkey was not a genocide, has cause worldwide fury among Armenians.
“The Armenian National Committee’s priority is to convince the international
community that Turkey is responsible for the Armenian Genocide–and is
obligated to provide both moral and financial restitution,” concluded Manoyan.

3) Turkey Allows Certain Foreigners to Purchase Land

TURKEY–The Turkish “Radikal” newspaper reported on Tuesday that foreigners
will be allowed to purchase land in Turkey, but that the government will
strictly monitor those who apply to acquire land. In fact, a commission was
created on December 24, 2003, to monitor those foreigners who seek to purchase
land.
Forming the commission are representatives from the ministries of defense,
interior, foreign affairs, and justice, Turkey’s national Security Council,
secret service (MIT), military heads, as well as representatives of offices
dealing with property issues.
The commission will scrutinize the possible intent and future plans of those
non-Turkish citizens who wish to purchase property, and has formed a list of
important and strategic locations that can not be sold to outsiders.
While some processes will be simplified for foreigners, limitations will also
be enforced. For example, having recently reviewed the purchase of land in the
village of Alanya by 13,000 Germans, as well as the purchase of
Government-owned farms by Israelis and Armenians, the commission recently
decided that citizens of 35 countries–including Armenia–will be not be
allowed to purchase property in Turkey. Others include citizens of Iran, Iraq,
Afghanistan, Algeria, India, Cuba, Greece, Tunisia, and Saudi Arabia. Citizens
from countries welcomed to purchase land include Germany, United States,
United
Kingdom, France, Italy, Panama, Uruguay, Belize, Benin, and the Central
African
Republic.

4) Armenians in Venice to Highlight Save Venice 2004

NEW YORK–Save Venice, a 35-year-old organization dedicated to supporting
conservation projects in Venice, will present a five day celebration of the
magnificent city’s history and treasures, August 29 through September 2, 2004.
The Gala week will feature an extraordinary Armenian dimension, in recognition
of Laurel and Walter Karabian’s major participation.
“We are very grateful to the Karabians for introducing us to the rich legacy
of the Armenians of Venice. Our membership is always eager to discover more
about the diverse cultures that make this city so fascinating,” expressed
Randolph H. Guthrie, Chairman of Save Venice, Inc. “The presence of Armenians
in Venice for nearly 1500 years can be seen in some of this exquisite city’s
most interesting locations.
More than 1,000 years before the Abbot Mekhitar founded his monastery on the
Island of San Lazzaro, Armenians were already leaving important footprints in
Venice. Armenian contributions began in 551 AD when the Byzantine Emperor
Justinian appointed his trusted aide Nerses the Armenian as Viceroy. Among
Nerses’s great contributions was the foundation of the first church ever built
on the site of St. Mark’s square. In Nerses’s footprint came the architect
Sahag, who built the Church of Santa Maria dell’Assunta on the Island of
Torcello, the oldest surviving building in the Venetian lagoon. This basilica
was consecrated in 639 AD by Isaac, the Armenian Exarch of Ravenna.
From Armenia’s strategic position on the Silk Road, Armenian traders and
translators frequently interacted with Venetians including the great explorer
Marco Polo. The Armenians established their own quarters near San Marco, which
soon included an Apostolic Church, Holy Cross of the Armenians, on a street
appropriately named Calle degli Armeni.
The Mekhitarian Monastery on the Island of San Lazzaro is today the most
prominent remnant from what was by the end of the 17th century a community of
10,000 Venetian-Armenians. From 1816 to 1818, Lord Byron studied at San
Lazzaro, learning the Armenian language and assisting the monks with the
publication of an English-Armenian dictionary. The great seascape painter Ivan
Aivazovsky (Hovhannes Aivazian), while visiting his brother Archbishop Gabriel
Aivazovsky, immortalized the Island and the Venetian lagoon in numerous
magnificent paintings. A number of Aivazovsky’s most famous paintings can be
found in the monastery of San Lazzaro, along with the artifacts sent by
Armenians from around the globe for safekeeping in this amazing repository of
Armenian culture. The San Lazzaro Library, art collections and printing press
are legendary in the Armenian Diaspora for what they have preserved and
perpetuated.
The 2004 Save Venice Gala will include a luncheon in the gardens of the
Mekhitarian Monastery on the island of San Lazzaro degli Armeni hosted by the
Karabians, followed by a special tour of the island’s many treasures and a
walking tour highlighted by the historical importance of Armenians in Venive.
In addition, there will be a visit to the beautigul town of Udine with its
frescoes by Tiepolo, followed by a luncheon at the charming Villa Gallici,
visits to Venetian palaces, a private concert by the outstanding Venice
Barouque Orchestra, a dinner at Palazzo Ducale, luncheon at the Hotel Cipriani
and the final night’s festivities at the incomparable candlelit Palazzo Pisani
Moretta.
Tickets cost $3,250, of which $1500 is tax deductible, and cover
participation
in all the activities of the five day Gala. Children under 17 can attend all
events except the Gala for a $500 ticket, and young adults age 17 to 39, can
purchase tickets for all events including that Gala for $1500 per person.
Travel and hotel arrangements are the guest’s own responsibility. To
receive an
invitation package, please send a request by email to Karen Marshall at
[email protected] For more information regarding travel or group
arrangements, please call Garbis Titizian at Levon Travel (800) 445-3866.

5) Students walk out as AGBU Announces Melkonian Closure

NICOSIA (Gibrahayer)–Over 200 students of the Melkonian Institute walked out
of their classes Tuesday after news emerged that a US-based foundation that
runs the 78-year-old school in Nicosia has decided to shut it down in June
2005, and will sell the prime assets, whisking up to $80 million out of
Cyprus.
Holding placards condemning the sale, students stood at the main gate and in
front of the founder’s mausoleum, chanting “Melkonian Not for Sale.”
Headquartered in New York, the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) which
has managed the Melkonian Institute since 1928, has decided to close the
historic school in 16 months time, without providing sufficient justification
for its move.
In an official announcement, the AGBU-NY said that after “extensive
deliberations and thorough assessment, the Central Board has resolved
unanimously to discontinue MEI in June 2005. This decision is based largely on
the Board’s conclusion that MEI no longer meets the challenges of its mission
in the present context of the Armenian world.”
The decision is hotly challenged by the worldwide Melkonian Alumni and
Armenian Diaspora organizations, with the Cyprus Alumni employing all means to
overturn the decision.
The Cyprus government, all political parties, and leading Greek Cypriot
personalities support the efforts of the Armenian community to keep Melkonian
open, considering the school a part of their national heritage and culture of
the island.
Last month, a government cabinet, headed by President Tassos Papadopoulos,
allocated an additional aid package to keep Melkonian in Cyprus.
Alumni representatives say the core issue is the prime land on which the
school is located and the intention of the AGBU to sell the land and whisk up
to $80 million out of Cyprus, to use for unspecified purposes. They said that
the move also violates the provisions of the will of the Melkonian brothers,
who established the school in 1926, initially as an orphanage for children
surviving the Genocide.
The Alumni intends to bring in international experts to strengthen its
defense, as it moves to contest the decision and block sale plans in courts,
and has already sought legal advice from law firms in Cyprus and abroad.
“It is not just a matter of the sale of the land and the flight of some 80
million dollars to the US, in violation of a 1926 will by the founders, but
also abuse of the rights of Armenian children who are being deprived of their
human right to a fair education based on their cultural heritage,” says the
Alumni.
The local Armenian community plans a mass demonstration on March 24 in front
of Melkonian to show its disdain at the decision, and to raise awareness among
the Cypriot population to ignore a press marketing campaign employed by the
US-based organization.
Melkonian students are facing the risk of being expelled, according to Masis
Der Parthogh, the vice president of the school’s Alumni Association.
He argued that officials of the AGBU based in New York have sent warning
messages that they would expel any school children who take part in any
activities or demonstrations opposed to the Melkonian’s closure.
The same students, however, seem fearless of any repercussions as they stayed
away from classes yesterday and the day before.
Furthermore, they are getting ready to take part in the large
demonstration on
Wednesday. The vice president of the Alumni, whose daughter is also a student
at the school, said that the children have lost their will to attend classes,
as they know that in fifteen months’ time, their school will be shut down. He
added, however, that the Armenian community of Cyprus will not give up so
easily and will use every legal means possible to overturn the decision.
Meanwhile, the Alumni Association recently sent a letter to the Presidential
Palace, protesting that the agency handling public relations for AGBU has
strong ties to a leading political state official.
Local TV and radio stations, as well as Cypriot press have given widespread
coverage to the sale of Melkonian.

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BAKU: Talvitie meets with Azeri officials

Baku Today, Azerbaijan
March 23 2004

Talvitie meets with Azeri officials

Baku Today 23/03/2004 11:08

Integrating into the European Union is Azerbaijan’s strategic choice,
have said Azerbaijani president when receiving European Union’s
special representative for South Caucasus Heikki Talvitie yesterday,
according to ANS.
Earlier today Talvitie has met with Azeri foreign minister Vilayayt
Guliyev. Talvittie said, at a press conference following the meeting
that the sides have talked about Karabakh conflict.
Talvitie has been visiting Azerbaijan since March 18, 2004.
He met with leader of Karabakh’s Azeri community Nizami Bahmanov on
March 19,2004.

Samuelian Comments on New York Life Insurance Company’s Settlement

PRESS RELEASE
ASSEMBLYMAN STEVE SAMUELIAN’S OFFICE
State Capitol, Sacramento, CA 95814
Contact: Tony Lee
Tel: (559) 240-1903

March 10, 2004

Samuelian Comments on New York Life Insurance Company’s Settlement

Armenian Policyholders who perished during the Armenian Genocide One Step
Closer to Justice

Fresno – California State Assemblymember Steve Samuelian (R-Clovis) released
a statement recently regarding the State’s Insurance Commissioner, John
Garamendi’s announcement that a $20 million dollar settlement on behalf of
survivors of victims of the Armenian Genocide was reached. In his statement,
Samuelian expressed his satisfaction with the long-awaited outcome of the
litigation between the descendants of the victims of the Armenian Genocide
and the New York Life Insurance Company and went on to commended all
involved who worked relentlessly to insure that New York Life be held
accountable to it’s former policyholders.

In particular, Samuelian commended the lead plaintiff Mr. Martin Marootian,
who in 1999 along with his friend and attorney Vartges Yeghiayan, initiated
widely-publicized lawsuit against the insurance company on behalf of his
uncle, a victim of the Armenian Genocide.

Marootian’s uncle’s case is one of thousands that spans clear back to
shortly before the beginning of World War I. It was then, that the New York
Life Insurance Company began selling thousands of life insurance policies to
Armenians living in the Turkish Ottoman Empire. The War, sparked
international chaos, and allowed the Turkish government the opportunity to
initiate the systematic genocide campaign of more than a million Armenians
in 1915. Thousands of those that perished happened to be policyholders with
New York Life, but the Company disavowed any obligation to the victims and
more than 2,200 policies went “unresolved” till 1999, when Marootian began
his pursuit of justice.

Marootian’s seemingly simple case became increasingly complicated. Had it
not been for the intervention of many prominent attorneys, elected officials
who enacted new legislation, and the backing of an increasingly powerful
Armenian community and its grassroots organizations, Marootian’s endeavor
would not have ended so successfully.

In his statement, Assemblymember Samuelian said, “I commend Mr. Marootian,
along with all of the attorneys, the families of those involved, and the
fine grassroots organizations such as the Armenian National Committee of
America and the Armenian Assembly who led the public charge to raise
awareness of this issue.” Samuelian also said, “I am glad that the New York
Life Insurance Company made a principled decision to properly honor the
memory of it’s former policyholders through this $20 million restitution
settlement. Those 1.5 million innocent lives that perished at the hands of
the Ottoman Turk Government during the Armenian Genocide of 1915 were
indeed, as New York Life’s then Vice-President put it – “prematurely
terminated” at the hands of the Turks” and thus entitled to full payment of
their life insurance policies. This settlement does not vanquish the pain of
the descendents of those who were massacred but it does restore one’s faith,
that in the end, justice prevails.”

# # #

British Airways Throws in the Towel

The Georgian Messenger
23 March 2004

British Airways throws in the towel

By Allison Ekberg
Despite an announcement in February that after a one-year break in service,
British Mediterranean would restore air traffic between Tbilisi
and London in March, senior managers from the carrier were unable to
finalize the resumption of services during a visit to Tbilisi last week
and have announced that the company will not return to Georgia. “In spite of
the ongoing and resolute efforts of the British Embassy in Georgia, the
British government, the new Georgian government and British Mediterranean
Airways to resolve this situation, the Georgian Civil Aviation Authorities
[CAA] remained determined to obstruct the resumption of air services between
Georgia and the United Kingdom by British Mediterranean Airways,” reads the
statement issued on Monday. British Mediterranean Airways (BMed), which
operates under a
franchise agreement with British Airways argues that the reasons given by
the CAA over the past year for denying their permit have constantly
changed and that most recently they demanded “an exceptionally high number
of documents including some that are not permitted under the Air Service
Agreement (ASA).” The ASA is the International Treaty that governs air
services between countries. The British carrier also objects to requests for
a commercial agreement with Airzena arguing that under the recently
negotiated Air Service Agreement “there is no
requirement for us to enter into commercial cooperation in any form.”

While British Airways states that it would be willing to discuss mutually
beneficial cooperation with Airzena after flights are resumed, they
“will not however cooperate in a manner that financially and commercially
disadvantages our company.” “These facts have been communicated to the
Georgian government at the highest levels,” says British Airways. Despite
the fact that a decree was signed by the
current Speaker of Parliament Nino Burjanadze when she was interim
president, the return of the airline remained the subject of controversy.
Opponents maintain that local companies are short-changed by this agreement,
though others note that the issue is of political and economic importance to
Georgia and that resolving it in this way is in the strategic interests of
the country and its future economic development, including attractiveness to
investors. The new government has repeatedly stated its interest in
re-establishing relationships with foreign companies. “I am not afraid of
lobbying for British Airways and Turkish Airlines because I believe that
settling this issue is crucial for our integration into Europe,” Parliament
Speaker Nino Burjanadze told journalists in February. The speaker told The
Messenger that while she already signed the decree, she would fully legalize
it by passing it through Parliament as well. The outgoing Parliament failed
to approve the decree this year due to the lack of a quorum. In March 2003,
British Airways and Turkish Airlines (Turkish later re-turned) were forced
to discontinue flights to and from Tbilisi when the Parliament voted not to
extend their flight permits. The reason for this was complicated but
included disagreements over the
nature of Commercial Agreements and observation of the “parity principle”
between foreign and domestic companies. According to this principle, if
Georgian Airlines did not carry out as many flights as a foreign carrier,
the latter was obliged to pay financial compensation.
Some Georgian authorities also alleged that the British and Turkish
companies received extra privileges and as a result Georgia did not
collect the tax revenues it should according to international practices.

It was also reported at the time that BMed had problems with the Georgian
Tax Department. On Monday the companysaid that the taxation is-sue raised by
the previous government “never had any substance.” The company adds that
through meetings with the Ministry of Finance and Tax Department “we have
agreed to a satisfactory resolution of this issue.” Reached at the time for
comment, Temur Tetradze, Head of the Transportation Department of the CAA
told The Messenger, “we are following the decision of the
Parliament.Parliament issued the order to restrict the flights.” Just last
week the former head of the Civil Aviation Administration Zurab Chankotadze
was sentenced to three months pre-trial detention in connection with
charges that he exceeded his official duties, is guilty of mismanagement and
stole over GEL 750,000 from
the state budget. British Airways claims that due to many years of
continuous difficulties with the Georgian Civil Aviation Administration it
has been unable to increaseits investment in Georgia where it previously
operated three flights a week compared to seven flights a week to Baku.
While it would consider resumption of services if there are “positive
changes in the Civil Aviation Administration,” it adds that “if the business
environment does not significantly change, it is unlikely that we will
resume flights between Tbilisi and London.

British Airway’s Tbilisi office will remain open through March 31, 2004
after which passengers should contact the British Airway’s office in
Yerevan.

Putin pledges ongoing Russian backing for Caucasus settlement

Putin pledges ongoing Russian backing for Caucasus settlement

Interfax news agency
23 Mar 04

MOSCOW

Russian President Vladimir Putin has confirmed Russia’s readiness to
contribute to settlement of the problems of the Caucasus region.

“A peaceful political settlement of the existing problems is certainly
in the interests of ongoing development of cooperation between Russia
and Georgia and of stability in the region. Russia is definitely
prepared to continue to promote this vigorously,” Putin said in Moscow
today at a ceremony for the presentation of credentials by foreign
ambassadors, including the new Georgian ambassador in the Russian
Federation Konstantin [Kote] Kemularia.

“Russia has an interest in having close, good-neighbourly relations
with Georgia,” Putin added.

According to Putin, “February’s visit to Moscow by the Georgian
president opened up encouraging prospects”.

Putin said that Moscow “accords great importance to implementing the
political accords (reached during the visit – Interfax note), accords
on international terrorism and on ensuring the security of our common
border”.

“A1+” Facing a Legal Bar

A1 Plus | 20:02:39 | 23-03-2004 | Social |

“A1+” FACING A LEGAL BAR

Which are the privileges of the TV Companies that won at TV and Radio
National Committee’ tenders and now broadcast? Which are the shortcomings of
“A1+” that TV and Radio National Committee has deprived it of the chance to
return to broadcasting area for 7 times and didn’t allow the reasons for
license refusal?

“Meltex” LTD representatives have been applying to the Economic Court for 7
months to get them in written. That trial, hearing of “Meltex” LTD claim
demanding TV and Radio National Committee to let the reasons for not
granting “A1+” the broadcasting license in the tenders for 25th, 31st, 39th,
51st frequencies, has ended today.

At today’s session “Meltex” LTD representative Ara Zohrabyan introduced an
application also demanding TV and Radio National Committee to make public
the bases for refusing the license to “A1+” in the tenders for 3rd, 63rd and
56th frequency ranges.

“The decision on granting a license to a tender winner can’t be commented
otherwise but the decision on refusing a license to other participants of
the tender”, TV and Radio National Committee representative Varser
Karapetyan said, neglecting the requirements of the 51st article of the Law
on “Television and Radio” and the 63rd article of “Regulations of TV and
Radio National Committee”. The 51st article clearly states: An applicant is
informed in written about the bases of refusing the license within 10 days
after the decision is made.

However, as it was expected from the last phase of the legal proceedings
(baseless dragging out of the trial, challenge of TV and Radio National
Committee to the Judge) Judge Robert Sargssyan rejected “A1+” claim against
TV and Radio National Committee.

The Court decision can be appealed against in the Appeal Court within 15
days.

http://www.a1plus.am

Who stole the kids’ food and medicine?

* Who stole the kids’ food and medicine?
* IGC to probe into oil-for-food deal

*********************************************************************

Scripps Howard News Service
March 23 2004

Who stole the kids’ food and medicine?

An editorial / By Dale McFeatters
Scripps Howard News Service
03/23/2004

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan plans to establish an independent
commission to investigate bribery and kickbacks in the
U.N.-administered oil-for-food program for Iraq.

A commission is a fine idea. Iraq will certainly not be the last
U.N.-imposed embargo with a humanitarian loophole, and if the
sanctions are to be effective they must be properly run. Clearly the
oil-for-food program was not.

Records seized in Iraq show Saddam Hussein’s regime made payments to
at least 270 foreign diplomats, government officials and
corporations. One of them was Benon Sevan, the U.N. executive in
charge of the program.

The allegation is that these payments were bribes for the officials
to look the other way while Saddam skimmed off more than $10 billion
that was supposed to go toward buying food and medicine for his
people.

If the allegation is true, we’d like to see the United Nations go
further and see these officials prosecuted, by their own countries
or, if necessary, the international court in The Hague, Netherlands.

First, it’s a matter of simple justice. Crooks should be punished.

Second, the United Nations has an obligation to clean its own house.
The precedent of tolerating kickbacks to its officials and
contractors is not a healthy one.

Third, during the duration of the embargo, its chief supporter, the
United States, took all kinds of abuse for supposedly depriving Iraqi
children of food and medicine. The Iraqi children might have been
sick and starving but the fault was the officials and their abettors
who were stealing the money.

That canard must be shown to the world for the false and baseless
charge it is.

*********************************************************************
Al-Jazeera, Qatar
March 23 2004

IGC to probe into oil-for-food deal

The programme handled billions in funds for food for Iraqis

Iraq’s Governing Council has decided to launch a formal inquiry into
alleged corruption in the now-defunct UN-administered oil-for-food
programme, a spokesman for council member Ahmad Chalabi said.

“Saddam Hussein was able to loot billions of (dollars of) Iraqi
people’s money under the supervision of the United Nations,”
Intifadh Qanbar, a spokesman for council member Ahmad Chalabi, told a
news conference.

He said the council would hire international legal and accountancy
firms to help the inquiry investigate “all personalities, companies,
families, leaders, politicians all over the world who received these
bribes”.

Media reports have alleged that government officials, foreign firms
and a senior UN official were among those who profited illegally from
the humanitarian programme.

Chalabi heads the US-backed council’s finance committee, which has
been making preliminary investigations.

The United Nations has already begun an in-house probe of its staff
and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan last week asked members of the
Security Council for their support in a second independent,
high-level inquiry into the allegations.

Annan has been under pressure to conduct an inquiry from US officials
searching for Saddam’s suspected hidden assets.

The inquiry will investigate “all personalities, companies, families,
leaders, politicians all over the world who received these bribes”

Intifadh Qanbar,
Spokesman for Ahmad Chalabi, IGC

One name on a published list was Benon Sevan, who ran the UN
programme that began in December 1996 and ended a year ago.

Oil companies chosen by Iraq put money into a UN escrow account out
of which suppliers of civilian goods were paid to ease the impact of
1991 Gulf War trade sanctions on Iraqis.

Sevan has denied the allegations and UN officials have said they have
not been given any documents.

Foreign companies

Annan, in his letter to Security Council members on Friday, said the
media allegations must be addressed “to bring to light the truth and
prevent an erosion of trust and hope that the international community
has invested in the organisation”.

Annan has been under pressure
to conduct internal UN probe

UN officials say any probe would need to look at foreign companies,
suppliers, middle men who bought the oil and the French bank
BNP-Paribas, which handled the UN-Iraq account.

The oil-for-food programme handled more than $65 billion in funds for
food, medicine and other civilian goods. It was shut down last year
after the US-led invasion that toppled Saddam.

The US General Accounting Office, an interagency body headed by the
Treasury, is trying to locate and seize $10 billion to $40 billion in
estimated hidden Iraqi assets.

The GAO said in a report last week that Saddam acquired $5.7 billion
of these assets from the proceeds of oil smuggled through Syria,
Jordan, Turkey and elsewhere.