Armenian president, EU envoy discuss cooperation

Armenian president, EU envoy discuss cooperation

Public Television of Armenia, Yerevan
26 Mar 04

[Presenter over video] The special representative of the EU for the
South Caucasus, Heikki Talvitie, and President Robert Kocharyan
discussed in Yerevan today the prospects for involving the South
Caucasus countries in the programme “Expanded Europe: New Neighbours”.

Robert Kocharyan said that Armenia’s participation in this programme
will seriously stimulate the implementation of all reforms in the
country in line with European standards.

Ambassador Heikki Talvitie noted the importance of developing regional
cooperation in the South Caucasus and stepping up the region’s
economic relations with European countries.

The Armenian president expressed Armenia’s determination to develop
and deepen relations with the European Union.

Armenian premier replaces head of state property department

Armenian premier replaces head of state property department

Public Television of Armenia, Yerevan
25 Mar 04

One more staff change has been made in the Armenian government.
According to Prime Minister Andranik Markaryan’s decision, David
Vardanyan has been relieved of the post of head of the Department for
the Management of State Property.

Karine Kirakosyan, deputy head of the Armenian government staff, has
been appointed to this post.

Armenian authorities, Opp trade threats ahead of “real fight”

Armenian authorities, opposition trade threats ahead of “real fight”

Aravot, Yerevan
26 Mar 04

Text of unattributed report by Armenian newspaper Aravot on 26 March
headlined “The stage of frightening each other”

“Time will come and we shall see who will kill whom,” [Defence
Minister] Serzh Sarkisyan has said in reply to the opposition’s call
for a power change in April. His reply may be considered a motto of
today’s domestic political life in Armenia.

We shall see if the opposition will kill the authorities or visa
versa. All this is like a duel of professional boxers inside a ring,
when before the duel they swap threats. Such a psychological
atmosphere is becoming imminent between the authorities and the
opposition. And naturally much depends on who will win. They should
first answer the question – how will their own people react to what
will happen and who will they follow?

Let us start with the opposition. Its leaders speak so confidently
that one starts to believe that they really know where they are going
and are 100 per cent sure that people will follow them. Naturally,
this makes the authorities angry. Though the authorities assure us
that they are not frightened of the spring actions of the opposition,
they are obviously preparing for opposition attacks by strengthening
the prosecutor-general’s office, police, etc.

At present we have only a psychological fight on our political
ring. The real fight has not yet started and it cannot be ruled out
that it will not start. In reality though the authorities and the
opposition are trying to frighten each other as much as possible. They
are also worried as they do not know how people will behave during
their duel. People might decline to referee in this duel and recognize
somebody else as a winner. In all probability this will happen.

BAKU: Kocharian may start war in Karabakh to remain in office

Armenian leader may start war in Karabakh to remain in office – Azeri daily

Ekho, Baku
26 Mar 04

The military conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan may resume in
April. The command and staff exercises of the Armenian armed forces
which started this week “in order to get the army fully operational”,
may be the first step to increase tension.

“War is today the only option for [Armenian President] Robert
Kocharyan to somehow silence the opposition,” the chairman of the
Helsinki Association of Armenia, Mikayel Daniyelyan, has told Ekho
newspaper in an interview.

[Correspondent] Military exercises started in Armenia this week.

[Daniyelyan] Yes, we have begun military exercises. At this stage,
they have more to do with the promise of the opposition to carry out
serious actions of protest. Permanent actions of protest are expected
in mid-April with the sole objective – resignation of the
president. We will see what happens.

The authorities are seriously concerned. They have replaced the
prosecutor-general, dismissed several prosecutors and heads of police
departments in various districts of Yerevan. The authorities are in
need of more than ever control over the army, as there are fears that
not all the top brass will follow [defence minister and Kocharyan’s
political ally] Serzh Sarkisyan. The more people there are in the
army, the less of them can attend rallies. If Kocharyan sees that
nothing can be achieved through these harsh measures (arrests, so on),
then he will take this step (go to war – correspondent).

The opposition took a decisive step towards unity this week. Following
protracted negotiations, the Justice bloc and the National Unity Party
issued a statement which said, in particular, that the Justice bloc
and the National Unity Party are taking on responsibility to lead the
national movement to fulfill national demands: remove the illegitimate
regime, establish the constitutional order and legal authorities in
Armenia. To that end, the sides agreed to jointly organize a
nationwide demonstration of disobedience no later than by 13
April. The date of the demonstration will be announced on 5 April. The
Justice bloc and the National Unity Party will make a joint statement
on that day. “We re-confirm our determination to struggle till the
change of power in Armenia,” the statement read.

[Passage omitted: Citing a report in Russian newspaper]

Robert Kocharyan has more than enough grounds for concern. In order to
remain in office in such a situation, his only, and perhaps last,
resort is to increase tension on the frontline, Mikayel Daniyelyan
told Ekho.

Armenia will hardly be able to resume military operations without a
“cause”. Official Armenian newspaper started dreaming it up as long
as several weeks ago. Ekho reported earlier calls aired in Yerevan
that Karabakh separatists “retain their right to launch a preventive
attack” against Azerbaijan. The Armenian official press urges
“harsher” approach towards Azerbaijan.

[Passage omitted: David Shakhnazaryan’s reported views]

Meanwhile, as Ekho was told in the Azerbaijani Defence Ministry, the
situation in the occupied territories and in Armenia is being
carefully monitored, with information coming in from various
sources. “At present, there is no tension on the frontline,” the
ministry said. However, the Azerbaijani army is ready to respond to
provocation. “We have it all under control and our response will be
instantaneous,” the ministry said.

ANCA-WR News: Los Angeles Mayor Backs Genocide Resolution

Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region
104 North Belmont Street, Suite 200
Glendale, California 91206
Phone: 818.500.1918 Fax: 818.246.7353
[email protected]

PRESS RELEASE
March 24, 2004

Contact: Ardashes Kassakhian
Telephone: 818.500.1918

LOS ANGELES MAYOR EXPRESSES FULL SUPPORT FOR ANCA GENOCIDE PREVENTION
POSTCARD CAMPAIGN

Los Angeles, CA – Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn expressed his full
support for the ANCA Genocide Prevention Postcard Campaign. The
Postcard Campaign is designed to seek passage of legislation pending
in both the U.S. Senate andHouse of Representatives commemorating the
15th anniversary of America’s adoptionof the Genocide Convention. The
legislation specifically references the Armenian Genocide. Over 50,000
Americans have participated in the ANCA postcard Campaign since it was
launched last year.

Mayor Hahn expressed his support for the ANCA Postcard Campaign in a
personal note sent to ANCA-WR Headquarters on March 17, 2004. The
Mayor thanked the ANCA for focusing Congressional attention on the
need to end cycles of genocide. `The ANCA Genocide Postcard Campaign
continues the never-ending endeavor to keep alive in our minds and
memory what History is want to omit: the extent to which humans are
capable of implementing a system of hate,’ wrote Mayor Hahn in his
letter to ANCA-WR Chairman Raffi Hamparian.

“We appreciate Mayor Hahn’s support for the ANCA Genocide Postcard
Campaign,” explained ANCA-WR Executive Director Ardashes
Kassakhian. “His support for our Campaign is building the momentum we
need to force Congressional leaders to permit a vote on bills, which
we and over 100 organizations support, commemorating the 15th
anniversary of America’s adoption of the Genocide Convention,’
Kassakhian added.

Individuals wishing to participate in the ANCA Genocide Prevention
Postcard Campaign are encouraged to contact the ANCA-WR offices at
(818) 500-1918 or visit

The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) is the largest and
most influential Armenian American grassroots political organization.
Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and
supporters throughoutthe United States and affiliated organizations
around the world, the ANCA actively advances the concerns of the
Armenian American community on a broad range of issues.

Editor’s Note: Letter from Mayor Hahn is attached.
#####

www.anca.org
www.anca.org.

Disabled in Armenia Have Fallen Into Neglect

A1 Plus | 21:44:42 | 24-03-2004 | Social |

DISABLED IN ARMENIA HAVE FALLEN INTO NEGLECT

Commission on Culture, Education and Social affairs of the Black Sea
Economic Cooperation’s Parliamentary Assembly started Wednesday its 22nd
session presided by Dumitru Buzatu, the Vice-Chair of the Commission and the
head of Romanian delegation.

Parliamentary delegations from Turkey, Moldova, Bulgaria, Albania, Ukraine,
Russia and Georgia arrived in Yerevan to attend the session. Azeri
delegation didn’t come because of technical problems.

The subject of the discussion was social, economic and civil rights of the
disabled.

Russian representative Adam Tleuz spoke on physical and social obstacles the
disabled face.

It was pointed out at the session, that rights of the disabled are being
infringed in Armenia and the republic’s medical centers are far from
international standards.

The session participants urged the BSEC governments and parliaments to take
steps to bring their countries’ laws on the disabled in correspondence with
international standards paying special attention to disabled children and
women.

The commission’s 23th session will be convened on September 29, 30 in
Kishinev, Moldova.

http://www.a1plus.am

Foothold in Armenia

The Moscow Times
Thursday, Mar. 25, 2004. Page 6
Business in Brief

Foothold in Armenia

YEREVAN, Armenia (AP) — Russia’s state-owned Vneshtorgbank on Wednesday
bought 70 percent of the shares in a major Armenian bank, officials said.

Andrei Kostin, board chairman of Vneshtorgbank, said that the purchase of a
controlling stake in Armenia’s Armsberbank marked the Russian bank’s first
acquisition of another bank in the former Soviet Union.

He called it recognition of Armenia’s political and economic stability.

Russian state-owned companies have increasingly tightened their foothold in
this ex-Soviet republic. Unified Energy Systems assumed financial control of
Armenia’s only nuclear plant last year in a deal that Armenia sought to get
out from under massive energy debts to Russian fuel suppliers.

Armenia also depends on Gazprom for natural gas supplies, and Russian
businesses are reportedly eyeing other sectors of the Armenian economy.

Kostin said VTB planned to use its investment to provide “the whole spectrum
of services to Russian companies operating in Armenia.”

Armsberbank was created in 1923 and privatized in 2001. Two other Armenian
banks, Areksimbank and Yunibank, also have Russian investors.

ANKARA: Sahin: Bans And Restrictions Are Threats Against Regime

Anadolu Agency
March 24 2004

Turkish State Minister Sahin: Bans And Restrictions Are In Fact
Threats Against Regime

ISTANBUL – Turkish State Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet
Ali Sahin said on Wednesday that bans and restrictions were in fact
threats against the regime.

Speaking in a ceremony held as about 200 people joined the Justice
and Development Party (AK Party), including members of Jewish and
Armenian societies in Istanbul, Sahin noted that the government tried
to comply with the democratic standards of the civilized world.

Therefore, Sahin said, the government made many new arrangements to
meet Copenhagen criteria.

Sahin said, ”we know problems that foundations of societies are
facing for years. Every citizen of Turkish Republic is a first class
citizen. Nobody can make any discrimination among Turkish citizens
whatever their religion, race or culture are.”

They had made some changes related with foundations as a part of
European Union (EU) adjustment laws, Sahin stated.

But, Sahin noted, there were still some problems in implementation of
new laws.

Sahin said, ”why should there be a difference between foundations
formed by citizens who believe in Islam and citizens who believe in
other religions? Why shouldn’t they be subject to the same
regulation? Naturally, they should be subject to the same
regulation.”

Legal works and arrangements on foundations still continued, Sahin
pointed out.

Sahin stressed that Turkish citizens living abroad could freely
perform their religious duties and noted that it should be the same
for Turkish citizens of foreign origin.

”We want full democracy, freedom of belief and worship in Turkey.
And, we are exerting efforts to prevent our citizens from facing any
problems. We don’t think that this will weaken democracy or threaten
the regime. Because, bans and restrictions are in fact threats
against the regime. If citizens of this country say how fair the
state is and how freely they can perform their religious duties,
then, this will strengthen the regime and democracy,” Sahin added.

The law on amendment to several laws which is publicly known as the
seventh EU adjustment package also includes arrangements regarding
foundations.

The bill amends additional third article of the decree with the force
of law on establishment and duties of the Directorate General of
Foundations.

In accordance with this amendment, foundations formed in Turkey can
be a member of foundations and organizations formed outside Turkey
under the permission of the Interior Ministry and positive opinion of
the Foreign Ministry in case cooperation of the foundations are
considered beneficial.

Foundations formed in foreign countries can hold activities, open
branches and cooperate with some other foundations in Turkey with the
consent of the Interior Ministry and opinion of the Foreign Ministry.

White’s fund-raising effort heads to Austin

Houston Chronicle, TX
March 25 2004

White’s fund-raising effort heads to Austin
Out-of-town money won’t exceed self-imposed 5 percent cap, campaign
says

By JOHN WILLIAMS

During his campaign for mayor, Bill White made an issue of his
opponents collecting money from outside Houston.

He challenged them to sign his pledge to limit out-of-town influences
by taking no more than 5 percent of their campaign contributions from
non-Houstonians.

But four months after winning, White traveled to Austin on Wednesday
expecting to raise $25,000 at a fund-raiser there, the second time
this year he has left the city to raise money. He went to Washington,
D.C., in January for the same reason.

The out-of-town events are not expected to bust the 5 percent cap,
White fund-raiser Herb Butrum said Tuesday.

In winning, White spent a record $9.7 million, including $2.5 million
of his own money. Fund-raising efforts since then, including the ones
out of town, may add as much as $900,000 to White’s war chest by
April 4, the city-imposed deadline for raising campaign money until
the next campaign cycle begins in spring of 2005, Butrum said.

Houston political consultant Craig Varoga said the post-election
fund-raising is a good way to prevent a candidate from running
against White next year.

“Money like that is called the invisible primary because it kills
opponents before they can even get out of the cradle,” Varoga said.

If White can avoid major opposition in 2005, Varoga said, “he can
concentrate on city issues for four years rather than worry about
political ones after two years.”

White was as blunt. “I’m hoping not to have an opponent next year,”
he said.

During the campaign, White made three ethics pledges. In addition to
limiting his contributions from outside Houston to 5 percent of the
total, he promised not to take more than 10 percent from those who do
a majority of their business with the city and not to hire campaign
staffers who lobby City Hall or other local governments.

White said this week that he placed the cap on contributions from
those outside Houston to create “a balance so we don’t have to rely
disproportionately on any particular interest groups.”

The campaign pledge to limit money from outside of Houston was partly
a dig at mayoral candidate Sylvester Turner, a state representative
who transferred his legislator’s campaign account to his mayoral
race. Much of that money came from interests outside of Houston that
do business in the Texas Capitol.

Turner said this week he had no problem with White soliciting money
in Austin and Washington.

“A lot of things are said during campaigns,” Turner said. “The race
is over. He can raise money where he needs to.”

Wednesday’s fund-raiser in Austin was at the home of investor Bo
Baskin, an investment banker who helped establish a private equity
firm last year called Blue Sage Capital LP.

Limited partners in the firm include state pension funds, financial
institutions and the federal government.

Baskin said the company has no investment with the city of Houston or
any of the city employee pension funds.

Also hosting the event at Baskin’s home were Austin Mayor Will Wynn
and former Austin Mayor Kirk Watson, both Democrats.

Baskin, a Republican and former Houston resident who is related to
White through marriage, said he is hosting the fund-raiser partly
because he believes White “de-partisanized politics in Houston.”

In January, White was beneficiary of a Washington fund-raiser hosted
by energy consultant Kyle Simpson, a former Coastal Corp. official
who served as staff director for White when he was deputy secretary
in the Department of Energy under President Clinton.

In 1992, White and Simpson coordinated fund-raising efforts in the
Houston area for Clinton’s first presidential campaign.

In 1997, Simpson was called to testify before a Senate investigating
committee that was looking into international businessman Roger
Tamraz.

Tamraz had testified that he gave $300,000 to the Democratic Party in
1996 to “open the doors to the White House” so he could promote his
overseas oil pipeline venture from the Caspian Sea to Turkey through
Azerbaijan and Armenia.

During the investigation, Simpson was questioned about his role in
helping Tamraz gain access in the White House because of his
contributions to the Democratic Party. Simpson repeatedly denied
introducing campaign donations into policy discussions.

Tuesday, White said the investigation “vindicated Mr. Simpson, who is
very well regarded.”

He said that Tamraz had no connection with the company he created
after leaving the Department of Energy in 1995 to develop oil fields
in the Caspian Sea region. Investors in that company, Frontera
Resources, included former U.S. Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Houston
businessman J. Livingston Kosberg.

World Bank Survey Highlights Shrinkage Of Armenian Forests

Radio Free Europe, Czech republic
March 25 2004

World Bank Survey Highlights Shrinkage Of Armenian Forests

By Gevorg Stamboltsian

Armenians’ continuing use of firewood as a source of heating remains
a serious threat to the country’s endangered mountainous forests, new
research funded by the World Bank concludes.
The study conducted recently by a team of British and Swedish experts
found that 73 percent of people living near the Armenian forests
still resort to logging for keeping their homes warm in the winter.
`It’s a hard situation,’ said Andrew Mitchell, a British forestry
consultant involved in the effort.
`The total volume [of wood] that’s removed each year is approximately
750,000 cubic meters,’ he told RFE/RL. `And this is a very large
volume if you compare it with the officially planned volumes. So it
is likely to have an environmental impact.’

The total area of lands covered by woods in Armenia has already
shrunk considerably since the severe energy crisis in the early 1990s
which left the population without electricity and central heating.
Although the power shortages were eliminated by 1996 many people,
especially in rural areas, still prefer firewood to the more
expensive electricity, and the authorities have still not restored
natural gas supplies to the majority of households.

The authors of the World Bank study believe that poverty is the main
driving force of the continuing deforestation. But Armenian
environmentalists say there are also powerful commercial interests
involved, pointing to the fact that wood is heavily used by local
firms producing construction materials and furniture. They warn that
the deforestation is causing soil
erosion and having other negative effects on the country’s ecological
system.

`It’s a devastating business,’ admitted Ruben Petrosian, the recently
appointed head of Hayantar, the government’s main forestry agency.

Petrosian complained that the state now spends less than $300,000 a
year on forest protection and restoration — a far cry from Soviet
times when an equivalent of $4 million was annually budgeted for that
purpose. `In 1985, for example, new trees were planted on 3,500
hectares of land, creating new forests,’ he said.

However, Hayantar itself is viewed by many as a major cause of the
problem. Its employees are thought to routinely sanction illegal
logging in exchange for kickbacks. Their modest salaries only
contribute to the corruption.

`The temptation for corruption must be very large,’ Mitchell said.
`If I was in that position and my family was sick and I needed to
send them to hospital, I would take a bribe.’

Mitchell added that tougher penalties alone would not remedy the
situation. Besides, he continued, the government’s existing logging
regulations are not clear enough. `It is difficult to say what is
legal and what is illegal,’ he said.

Hayantar, which was previously controlled by the Armenian Ministry of
Environment, was transferred to the Agriculture Ministry in January
amid protests from 14 environmental protection groups. In a joint
letter to President Robert Kocharian, they warned that the move could
have `dangerous consequences’ for the country’s shrinking green
areas. They claimed that the Agriculture Ministry lacks the expertise
and commitment to protect them.