FAR Supporter Dedicated to Education and Development of Armenia


Fund for Armenian Relief
630 Second Avenue, New York, NY 10016
Contact: Edina N. Bobelian
Tel: (212) 889-5150; Fax: (212) 889-4849
E-mail: [email protected]

May 20, 2004


For more than 30 years, Jack Torosian, a retired post office clerk, has
been sending books in English and Armenian to the National Library of
Armenia and the National Medical Library, both in Yerevan, the capital.
First he boxed his personal collection of books, including texts on
literature, arts, music, history, and the sciences, and then began
soliciting his friends to donate their books to Armenia as well. He has
been selective in the choice of books to send, wanting only the best
resources for the Motherland.

When he decided to work with an organization to make a greater
difference in Armenia, the New Yorker born in Smyrna researched
nonprofits with qualities he valued, such as fiscal responsibility and a
long-term commitment to Armenia’s development. Ultimately, he decided
to work with the Fund for Armenian Relief (FAR), whose successful track
record is backed by a wide range of programs.

In the last five years, Mr. Torosian entrusted FAR to handle his
numerous book shipments. Pleased with the results, he became a
significant donor to the organization, supporting a variety of projects,
notably benefiting children and encouraging education. When he voiced a
desire to travel to Armenia last year, FAR organized for Mr. Torosian to
join a group, the Friends of Ounjian School, on their October 2003 trip.
It would be Mr. Torosian’s first trip to Armenia since the 1960s.

The Friends of Ounjian School are a group of New Yorkers committed to
the perpetuation of the Ounjian School, a school that was entirely
reconstructed by Dr. John Ounjian of Forest Hills, NY in memory of his
parents, Armenak and Yeghisapet Ounjian, through FAR. Seeing Dr.
Ounjian’s impact in the lives of more than 800 residents of Gyumri, a
city in the earthquake zone, and witnessing various FAR programs
throughout Armenia, Mr. Torosian deepened his personal tie with the
Homeland through FAR.

Upon his return to New York, Mr. Torosian made a large contribution to
the Ounjian School in support of Dr. Ounjian’s work. Impressed with
FAR’s commitment to advance groundbreaking scholarship in Armenia, he
delivered another substantial gift for the Armenian National Science and
Education Fund (ANSEF). Mr. Torosian has donated more than $100,000 in
the past several years to programs helping the Armenian people through

Mr. Torosian has been an active participant in the New York Armenian
community for more than 50 years. He continues to be a fixture at all
events to render his support in a meaningful way. “In my years of
association with Mr. Torosian, I have been impressed by his profound
commitment to learning in general and Armenia’s development. He is a
role model benefactor, who is so generous in supporting good causes in
Armenia. He is also the repository of the history of the New York
Armenian community of the 20th century,” said Simon Y. Balian, FAR
Executive Director.

FAR is a nonprofit organization headquartered in New York, with offices
in Yerevan, Gyumri and Stepanakert. Since 1989, FAR has implemented
various relief, development, social, educational, and cultural projects
valued at more than $200 million. It remains the preeminent relief and
development organization operating in Armenia.

For more information or to send donations, please contact the Fund for
Armenian Relief at 630 Second Avenue, New York, NY 10016; telephone
(212) 889-5150, fax (212) 889-4849;

— 5/20/04

E-mail photo available upon request.

PHOTO CAPTION 1: Jack Torosian is a dedicated supporter of education
and development programs helping the Armenian people through the Fund
for Armenian Relief.

PHOTO CAPTION 2: New York’s Jack Torosian, pictured here at a
restaurant by Lake Sevan, revived his personal connection with Armenia
on an October 2003 trip organized by the Fund for Armenian Relief with
the Friends of Ounjian School. Sitting, from right to left: Jack
Torosian, Seta and Arman Izmirliyan. Standing, from right to left,
Negdar and Hratch Arukian, Sona Tomoyan.

# # #

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress


BBC Video producer in Nagorno Karabakh

Albert Minasyan
By Neil Harvey, Video producer in Nagorno Karabakh

BBC News, UK
May 26 2004

I flew from London to Yerevan in Armenia, where I continued by car
for eight hours to Stepanakert in Azerbaijan. This is the main town
in Nagorno Karabakh.

A militarised zone exists around Stepanakert. No civilians are allowed
to enter, but I eventually received official accreditation.

The government provided me with a character for my film:
Nineteen-year-old Albert Minasyan.

Albert was a fairly typical, cooperative and bright young soldier.
After his obligatory two-year stint in the army, he wants to continue
studying economics.

The ethnic Armenians have been pushing the Azeris out of the region
from the mountainous regions to the plains.

The Armenians are fighting for international recognition of an
independent Nagorno Karabakh and the conflict currently amounts to
an unstable ceasefire.


The day of 22 March was another all-too-familiar day of trench warfare.

I heard gun shots throughout the day, but there was no sense of
immediate danger

A small platoon of troops – about 16 men – patrolled the front line
in shifts.

They stayed in a bunker about 500m from the front line and took up
different positions during two-hour stints.

After their shift, they left the bunker or trench and went back to
camp, where they rested for a while and then continued to train.

The Karabakhis claim they do not attack, only defend themselves from
the Azerbaijaini militia.

There were snipers lurking near the front line and I heard gun shots
throughout the day, but there was no sense of immediate danger.

Read more about Neil Harvey’s journey One Day of War will be broadcast
in the UK on Thursday, 27 May, 2004 at 2100 BST on BBC Two.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress


Despite Obstacles, Cal State Northridge Students Realize Dreams,Grad

Despite Obstacles, Cal State Northridge Students Realize Dreams, Graduate

May 26 2004

NORTHRIDGE, Calif., May 26 (AScribe Newswire) — As more than
8,600 Cal State Northridge students walk across the stage next month
to receive their diplomas, university officials will recognize more
than academic achievement. They will also honor the tenacity and
dedication of people determined not to let anything — from war to
cancer — stop them from achieving their goals.

“Getting a university education is not easy, even in the best
of circumstances,” said CSUN President Jolene Koester. “Many of our
students are the first in their families to go to college. Some have
juggled two jobs and a full course load. Others have dealt with
family obligations — often as single parents — cultural barriers or
physical challenges such as battling cancer. Some of our students
have had to interrupt their studies to serve their country.”

“But regardless of what has happened, these students have been
determined to complete their education. They are truly what Cal State
Northridge is all about — providing an opportunity for individuals,
even under the most adverse circumstances, to achieve their dreams.
We are proud to celebrate all they’ve accomplished.”

Here is a short list of some of these extraordinary graduates:

— Jasmine Altounian, M.A., Mathematics Education

As immigrants, Armenian refugees, Altounian’s parents were
stunned when a social worker showed up one day at their home in
London to tell them that their seven-year-old daughter was supposed
to be in school.

“All I remember is crying and wanting my mother,” said
Altounian, now 41 and living in Sunland. “I did not speak a word of
English and I had never even heard the language. I was
unceremoniously dumped in the back of the class and left to cope. I
think I wet myself from fright and everyone laughed at me. I was
immediately ostracized. School was a very cruel place.”

Altounian said she realized that the only way to get out of
such a miserable place was to do her best and get ahead. She studied
every chance she got and graduated from high school at age 12. When
her parents moved to Southern California in 1983, she immediately
enrolled at Cal State Northridge, and made the university a second

Altounian has earned bachelor’s degrees in biology and
psychology as well as a master’s in experimental psychology, a
teaching credential in biological sciences and a supplemental
credential in mathematics from Northridge.

Two years ago, Altounian, a teacher at Garvey Intermediate
School in Rosemead, decided to get her master’s in mathematics
education. About that same time, doctors discovered she had breast
cancer. Despite having to lose a semester at CSUN because of
chemotherapy, Altounian kept teaching.

“I had my good days and my bad days, but the kids in my
classes kept me going. When I lost my hair, they brought me hats and
scarves, and would visit me when I was in the hospital. If I felt
down, they’d bring me up,” she said. Altounian’s cancer has
metastasized. A year ago, her doctor’s gave her six months to live.
They now say she’s got two years.

Altounian thinks they are wrong. She’s making plans for
getting a doctorate and is fighting a decision by a new principal at
her school to dock her pay, retroactively, for missing after-school
meetings because she had to get to class at CSUN. Regardless, she
plans to keep teaching.

— Calvin Barnes, B.A., Sociology

While most of his classmates at Cal State Northridge spent
last summer at school or work, Barnes, 34, of West Hills, was in
Kuwait. As a member of the U.S. Naval Reserves, he was working as a
mechanic on field service trucks headed into battle in Iraq.

Despite the pressures of war all around him, Barnes wanted to
be sure that he kept his mind sharp. He read books, many sent by CSUN
professors. And when he got a chance, Barnes used his time on a
computer, provided for soldiers to keep in touch with loved ones
while away from home, to register for classes.

“I was already missing the spring semester and I wanted to
make sure that I was registered for the fall semester,” he said.

Barnes said he treasures his education. He admitted he was not
a good student while growing up in Miami, Fla. He had a severe
stutter then, and did not find school easy. When he graduated from
high school, he immediately joined the Marines. He served with the
Marines for six years and was part of Operation Desert Storm in 1991.

Barnes moved to Southern California in 1996, got a job with
Sports Chalet in loss prevention, joined the naval reserves, and
enrolled in classes at Pierce College. While taking a general
sociology class at Pierce, Barnes said a light went off in his head.

“I just found the subject so interesting I knew it’s what I
wanted to do,” he said.

Barnes transferred to CSUN in spring 2002. He was supposed to
graduate last spring, but his time in the Persian Gulf postponed his
commencement date.

“I really missed CSUN while I was over there, and I was
determined not to miss any more classes,” he said. “I got back from
the Gulf on Aug. 25 and went right back to school on Sept. 6. A lot
of people told me to take some time off because I had just gone
through this traumatic experience. But I couldn’t do that. At first
it was hard, but I adjusted and it was worth it.”

Barnes is considering a career in law enforcement, but is also
thinking about getting a master’s degree and teaching.

— Joe Cedillo, B.A., English

After a 10-hour operation, Cedillo, 30, of Santa Clarita,
recalls lying in a hospital bed last fall thinking, “I am just trying
to get a degree.”

Getting a college education has not been easy for Cedillo.

One year after obtaining associate of arts degrees in history
and botany from the College of the Canyons, Cedillo enrolled at CSUN
in 1995. But he soon lost interest in his studies and was placed on
academic probation for two semesters. Ultimately, he was academically
disqualified in 1998.

Cedillo re-enroll at CSUN in 1999 as an English major. “I had
always wanted to be a writer,” Cedillo said, “but I never tried it.”

Over the next couple of years he developed a passion for
theater. He performed in and produced several university productions.

But last fall, Cedillo’s health began to deteriorate; he was
coughing up blood and was misdiagnosed with walking pneumonia. During
a performance, he lost the ability to speak.

As his health continued to decline, Cedillo’s body started
shutting down. “I was literally in the phases of dying,” he said.

He was eventually diagnosed with testicular cancer, which can
be fatal.

Cedillo underwent surgery and chemotherapy from November 2003
to April 2004. He lost 50 pounds and had to relearn how to walk. He
still cannot run. He takes blood thinners and undergoes regular

“I am living on borrowed time,” he said.

As Cedillo recuperated, he wrote “Three Bulls,” based on his
experiences, which will be performed in June at Tia Chucha’s Cafe
Cultural in Sylmar.

Depending on his health, Cedillo would like to get a master’s
in English at CSUN.

“If I want stuff to happen, I have to do it now. I don’t know
if I have another five years,” he said. “If you’re not busy you’re

— Carolyn Copps, M.S., School Counseling

Born with a hearing disability, Copps was mislabeled as
learning disabled while going to school in Stevens Point, Wis. The
diagnosis confounded her parents, who kept insisting that their
little girl was bright.

“My dad told me several times that they had tested me as a
little girl and that I had a high I.Q. But at school, I was
constantly struggling and often answered the wrong questions,” she
said. “It was very hard.”

Things turned around when her parents divorced and she moved
with her mother to Tucson, Ariz., just before her 14th birthday. The
teachers and the school counselors there understood her problem and
helped her to catch up. She had entered high school reading at a
fourth-grade level, and by the time she graduated she was reading at
a college level. She was even encouraged to try out for drama so she
could learn to express herself better and be more assertive.

Copps graduated from the University of Arizona with a
bachelor’s degree in psychology in 2002. She said she chose to get
her master’s at Northridge because of the university’s reputation for
serving deaf and hard-of-hearing students.

The past two years have not been easy. She’s been going to
school full time while working three jobs — counselor at Granada
Hills High and CHIME Charter Elementary schools and tutor for a deaf
student — and battling several illnesses that often sent her to the
emergency room.

“I missed a lot of days of school, but I knew I could make it
up and I didn’t want to give up,” she said. Copps hopes to get a job
as a school counselor.

— Bettymae McKenney, B.A., Religious Studies

It takes a certain toughness of mind for a student of any age
to earn a university degree, but Bettymae McKenney’s 82 years are
testament to a special kind of determination. “You have to be
committed to do this,” said McKenney.

“Some mornings it was hard to get up and keep going,” said the
Van Nuys resident. “Your eyes, your whole body gets tired.”

But McKenney has never been one to back down from a challenge.
She dropped out of college in 1960 to take a secretarial position in
Edwards Air Force Base’s space program. There, she dealt with
sensitive correspondence between rocket scientist Werner Von Braun
and her bosses.

After her retirement, she took her son’s advice to go back to
school. As Valley College’s oldest graduate in 2001, McKenney earned
her liberal studies degree and a congratulatory letter from U.S.
Senator Barbara Boxer.

Student life at Cal State Northridge was challenging but
rewarding. “All the teachers were very polite to me, and respected
me. When I asked, ‘Am I really supposed to be here?’ they said

McKenney’s memory, she said, was “not what it was when I had
to memorize everything working on the moon project at Edwards.” Her
heavy CSUN class and study schedule required every ounce of her
concentration, she added. “I worked myself around the clock doing

But for McKenney, it was worth it. “The learning process
itself is what I love most,” she said.

— Doris Rosales, B.A., Chicano Studies

Rosales, 33, of San Fernando, died unexpectedly last month of
an erupted ulcer. Rosales is remembered by her family and friends as
a single mother determined to make a difference in the lives of women
in circumstances similar to her own.

Rosales, who was raised by a single mother, worked full-time
as a social worker with victims of domestic violence and part-time at
a YMCA shelter. She also volunteered at Casa Esparzena, where she
helped troubled teen-aged girls get back on track.

“She would do anything to make the kids laugh,” said Norma
Martinez, Rosales’ sister. “She would dress up like a clown if it
would help them have a better life.”

Despite financial hardship, balancing two jobs and
volunteering, Rosales attended Cal State Northridge full time to set
an example and to provide a better life for her 8-year-old son

“She had it hard,” said Celina Sanchez, Rosales’ friend and
co-worker, “but she managed to go to school, rain or shine. It was a
matter of getting her education.”

Rosales’ wanted to open a shelter for victims of domestic

“For my sister to almost make it to graduation is a great
achievement,” Martinez said.

— Cindy Trigg, B.A., Liberal Studies

Trigg, 48, of Simi Valley, credits her success to her
grandmother and other relatives who raised her. Her stepmother was
abusive and her own mother’s substance abuse led to large absences
from Trigg’s life.

“As a child I would daydream about being an adult and making a
difference in people’s lives,” she said.

After a failed marriage, Trigg, then a single mother of three,
had to work three jobs at times to support her children and to pay
for their education.

“I wanted the best for them,” Trigg said. “I wouldn’t let my
kids end up in the street.”

One of those jobs was at Cal State Northridge, where she has
worked for 29 years, the past 13 years she has worked in the
Department of Marketing as an administrative support coordinator.

Trigg initially enrolled as a student at CSUN in 1993 to set
an example for her children. Her 19-year-old daughter is now a
freshman at CSUN while her two older sons are in the military.

After more than 11 years of steadily attending school
part-time while working full time, Trigg will be graduating magna cum
laude. She hopes to teach third and fourth grade at a private school.

“I wasn’t going to let the people who hurt me ruin my life,”
she said. “I ultimately won.”

CONTACT: Carmen Ramos Chandler, CSUN Public Relations,
818-677-2130, [email protected]

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

Welterweight title: Karo Parisyan vs. Shonie Carter

WEC 10 Pictures
by Greg Savage ([email protected])

May 26 2004

In front of a standing room only crowd, estimated to be nearly 5,000
strong, WEC 10 delivered an action-packed card with 12 fights including
two world title matches. Headlining the show at The Palace Casino
in Lemoore, California were two UFC veterans, Shonie Carter and Karo
Parysian, battling it our for Carter’s WEC welterweight title. Gilbert
Melendez and Olaf Alfonso took to the cage looking to claim the vacant
WEC lightweight strap as well. All in all it was another exciting
night of MMA action, something we all have come to expect from the WEC.

Karo Parisyan vs. Shonie Carter

Karo Parysian ate a left hand from Shonie Carter early in the first
round that looked to have stunned the young Armenian grappler. Little
did those in attendance know that would be the last effective offensive
output from the crafty Carter. Parysian dominated from start to finish
as he threw Carter around the cage at will and once it hit the mat
he continued his submission assault on Mr. International.

At one point Parysian threw Carter to the mat immediately landing
with a kimura. Carter hoped over, escaping the shoulder lock only to
find himself in an armbar. As he attempted to pull his arm out he
suddenly found himself in a triangle choke. That’s right folks, it
was a judo throw-kimura-armbar-triangle combo. Shonie should change
his name to Houdini after that performance, not too many fighters
would have survived that submission barrage.

After three rounds, Karo Parysian reasserted himself as a top
welterweight with a quality win over a quality opponent winning the
WEC welterweight title en route.

Meanwhile: An Arab battleground and playground

Meanwhile: An Arab battleground and playground
John Schidlovsky IHT

International Herald Tribune
May 26 2004

BEIRUT and playground

A traveler returning to this city for the first time in 29 years
feels an odd mix of nostalgia and disorientation. Lebanon’s civil
war ended 14 years ago, yet the scars remain highly visible, and the
causes apparently unresolved.

I first came to Beirut in July 1975 as a 27-year-old American
journalist intent on learning Arabic while soaking up the cosmopolitan
city’s sybaritic life-style. A job at the English-language Daily Star
newspaper covered my bills, including rent at a seaside apartment in
the heart of the city’s posh hotel district.

Within a few months, however, the hotel district had become the
site of fierce fighting between Christian Phalangist and leftist
Muslim militias. By the end of 1975, the Daily Star had suspended
publication, the war had spread to many areas of the city and I had
fled for the peace of Cairo. None of us guessed the war would last 15
years, take 100,000 lives and make Beirut a synonym for urban terror.

Now, leading a delegation of 13 U.S. news editors on a fact-finding
trip to Lebanon and Syria, I have returned to Beirut for the first
time. The city has been at peace since 1990 and is rebuilding its
downtown in a huge multi-million-dollar project spearheaded by Prime
Minister Rafiq Hariri. Beirut remains a dazzling city, perched between
the achingly blue Mediterranean and the snow-capped mountains to
the east, and it is tempting to imagine a scenario in which the city
regains its former allure as a dynamic regional center.

But Lebanon is a far different place than it was in 1975. A crushing
$35 billion public debt will hamper the economy for years. Foreign
investment is a shadow of what it used to be. Syria, which keeps
20,000 soldiers in the country, controls the country’s politics. On
a regional level the bloody conflict in Iraq and the deadlocked
Israeli-Palestinian issue provide little reason for optimism.

Between our meetings and appointments, I sneak away to revisit some
old haunts. My first stop is at my old apartment building, a four-story
structure that is still padlocked and pockmarked with the bullet holes
that I remember from 1975. A block away, the huge war-ravaged carcass
of the Holiday Inn casts its eerie shadow over the neighborhood. Both
of these damaged buildings – one tiny and anonymous, the other a
hulking symbol of a nation’s collective madness – may be renovated,
I’m told. If the price is right.

When Beirutis talk about war these days, it is about Iraq, not the
old civil war here. At the packed night clubs in the Monot district
and in the glittering new restaurants in Beirut’s rebuilt downtown,
the questions being debated are whether Lebanon’s experience provides
any lessons relevant to post-war Iraq.

Lebanon’s war ended with the 1990 Taif Agreement allocating political
power to the country’s various religious sects and communities. A ratio
of 50-50 in the country’s Parliament was fixed between Lebanons Muslims
and Christians, with proportions allocated for subgroups: Shiites,
Sunnis, Druze and Alawis, Maronites, Greek Orthodox and Catholics,
Armenian Orthodox and Catholics and others. In Iraq, the political
challenge is finding an appropriate system of sharing power among
rival Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish populations.

Is Lebanon’s formula a workable model for peaceful coexistence? The
peace has held for 14 years but some thoughtful Lebanese wonder if
the country isn’t more divided than ever. “Sure it could,” said a
filmmaker in his 20s when asked if sectarian violence could erupt
again. “Nothing’s really changed from the civil war.”

Lebanon is a small country and suffers the fate of many small countries
in having its fate determined by external players – in this case,
Syria, Israel, the Palestinians. And of course the United States.

The U.S. Embassy is far out of town on top of a heavily-fortified
citadel, its diplomats rarely venturing out without armed escorts
– a grim reminder of the bombing in 1983 that destroyed the former
embassy site and the subsequent bombing of the U.S. Marines barracks.
At the beautiful campus of the American University of Beirut, the
school’s president, John Waterbury, describes U.S. relations with
the Arab world as the worst he’s seen in 40 years.

But Beirutis are nothing if not resourceful, and some are managing to
cash in on the chill in U.S.-Arab relations. Wealthy Arabs from the
Gulf are staying away from the United States because of the Iraq war
and traveling here instead, and many are investing in expensive real
estate along Beirut’s rebuilt waterfront. A new condominium tower –
built directly in front of my little old apartment building, now cast
into permanent shadow – offers units at more than $2 million per floor.

John Schidlovsky is director of the Washington-based International
Reporting Project at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced
International Studies.

US supports UN resolutions on NK, Ambassador says


May 26 2004

BAKU, MAY 26, ARMENPRESS: Reno Harnish, the US ambassador to
Azerbaijan, has reiterated today that his government is interested in
a soonest resolution of the Nagorno Karabagh conflict. In a meeting
with students of Baku State University, the ambassador said unresolved
conflicts remain a major problem not only for Azerbaijan but also
for the entire region, warning concurrently that the Armenian-Azeri
confrontation over Karabagh carries elements of resumption of
hostilities. He added, however, that the US government is working
hard to help the conflicting sides to reach a mutually accepted
peace formula.

Reno Harnish spoke also about resolution options, proposed by
international peace brokers, saying Armenia and Azerbaijan were close
to striking the peace deal in Key West talks in the USA, sponsored
by Collin Powel.

The ambassador also shrugged off fears, voiced by Azeri parliament
members that the US companies are preparing to invest in Nagorno
Karabagh. “The US has made no investments in Karabagh and does not
support trade with and investments in Karabagh,” he said and added:
“The US supports all four UN Resolutions on Nagorno Karabagh, which
call on Armenia to pull out its troops from occupied Azeri regions.”

Cardinal of Lyon arrives in Armenia on May 27


May 26 2004

YEREVAN, MAY 26, ARMENPRESS: At the invitation of Catholicos of All
Armenians, Karekin II, Cardinal of Lyon, Archbishop Philippe Barbarin
will arrive in Armenia on May 27.

Armenian Church headquarters said in the course of his 5- day visit
the Cardinal will attend holy places of Armenia – Khor Virap, Temple of
Geghard, the Shirak Diocese, the Cathedral of Gregory the Enlightener
in Yerevan, he will attend also a services at St. Etchmiadzin.

It is expected that the Cardinal will hold meetings with students
and schoolchildren at the Vazkenian Seminary in Sevan, Theological
Department at Yerevan State University, French University of Armenia,
and French schools in Yerevan and Gyumri. Theology students will have
a chance to attend Cardinal’s lecture on St. Irineos.

Archbishop Barbarin will also visit Tsitsernakaberd Memorial to
commemorate the memory of victims of the 1915 Armenian Genocide,
Matenadaran Institute of Old Manuscripts and the Bible Community.

Medicine registration fees to be leveled


May 26 2004

YEREVAN, MAY 26, ARMENPRESS: According to a health ministry-affiliated
agency for medications and medical technologies, foreign pharmaceutical
companies seeking registration of their products in Armenia will
pay as much fee for expert examination of their medicines as
local companies. Until now overseas companies have paid $1,500
for conducting expert examination of their medicines and local
companies-$400. The lower price for domestic companies was to help
boost home pharmaceutical production.

Under the new scheme, both local and foreign companies, will have to
pay $1,200. Leveling of fees is one of the requirements Armenia assumed
when joining the World Trade Organization. According to the agency,
around 4,000 medicines are registered in Armenia, of which 7.4 percent
are domestically produced. Armenia brings medicines mainly from US,
Great Britain, France, the Czech Republic, Hungary and CIS countries.

Two of 11 Armenian companies, licensed to manufacture medicines,
Pharmatech and Arpimed have brought their products in compliance with
GMP requirements.

A Former Superpower’s Hazardous Legacy

The Washington Post
May 26, 2004 Wednesday

Final Edition

A Former Superpower’s Hazardous Legacy;
Experts Cite Risks of Aging and Unsecured Arms Caches in Ex-Soviet

by Peter Baker, Washington Post Foreign Service

KUTAISI, Georgia — Just beyond the rusted wire fence with gaping
holes and the teenage guards wearing slippers, dozens of napalm bombs
lay in the tall grass.

Nearby were canisters of land mines stacked in the open air, rotting
crates of ammunition for antiaircraft batteries, ancient guided
missiles and piles upon piles of various types of bombs. Stacked in
a nearby warehouse were thousands of launchers for shoulder-fired

Once a bristling outpost of a global superpower, the former Red Army
base near here has deteriorated into a weedy munitions junkyard,
one of hundreds of aging, relatively unprotected stockpiles scattered
throughout the former Soviet Union. While the United States has focused
on securing potential weapons of mass destruction in this part of the
world, some security experts increasingly say conventional arsenals
may be dangerously vulnerable to theft as well.

Millions of tons of armaments were left behind in depots like the
one in Kutaisi when the Russian military largely withdrew from the
14 former Soviet republics that became independent from Moscow more
than a decade ago. Some of these bases have since served as one-stop
shopping centers for black-market arms traders who have little trouble
sneaking in or bribing guards to let them pass.

“The situation in my opinion is extremely bad,” said Yura Krikheli,
deputy director of the Gamma Center, a Georgian government institute
charged with securing arms caches. “Georgia lies in a very dangerous
location. If we consider what countries we border, then anything can
happen. There’s a danger of terrorists coming and people stealing
things and taking them to conflict zones.”

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), a
regional grouping of 55 countries, has cited “huge risks” associated
with the weapons stockpiles. Foreign ministers from the member
countries last December approved a plan to secure and destroy many
of those weapons to stop “illicit diversion and uncontrolled spread
especially to terrorist and criminal groups.”

The corroding bombs and ammunition also pose a growing risk to the
environment and to the communities near the stockpiles. An explosion
at an old Soviet arms depot in Ukraine this month, possibly caused
by a cigarette, touched off about two weeks of secondary blasts and
fires that were extinguished only last week. Five people were killed
and 10,000 were evacuated; more than 2,000 buildings were damaged
or destroyed.

In 2001, a series of depots containing artillery shells left over from
the Soviet war in Afghanistan exploded in Kazakhstan, prompting the
evacuation of 1,000 soldiers and residents from a six-mile danger zone.

The problem exists in Russia as well. In the eastern port city of
Vladivostok, two officers were killed and five soldiers were injured
last August when a munitions facility exploded. It was the fourth major
fire at Pacific Fleet arsenals since the demise of the Soviet Union,
despite politicians’ demands that ammunition warehouses be moved away
from residential areas. Similar explosions have occurred in the Samara,
Sverdlovsk and Buryatia regions in the last six years.

Here in Georgia, a warehouse at a military base exploded in 1996
and forced the evacuation of tens of thousands of people for a
week, according to military experts, who fear that it could happen
again. “If there’s an explosion, there’ll be a chain reaction of
explosions,” said Imanual Yakov an Israeli consultant hired by the
Georgians. “There’ll be unbelievable damage.”

It is the fear of terrorists and guerrillas, though, that has generated
a new drive by officials in this mountainous country to address the
long-neglected danger.

The Russians still maintain two bases in Georgian-administered
territory, but in the 1990s, as part of the dissolution of the Soviet
Union, the newly constituted Georgian army was given control of more
than 30 Soviet bases, spread across a country smaller than South
Carolina. Many contain thousands of tons of unneeded arms, which are
guarded by little more than fragile fences.

“It’s a legitimate issue because we inherited from the Soviets a
huge infrastructure,” Defense Minister Gela Bezhuashvili said in an
interview. “Posts are spread all over Georgia. They need to be cleared
of mines.” Georgian officials said they had received virtually no
help from the Russians with these or other crucial tasks.

A recent tour of four bases in different parts of the country provided
a glimpse of the exposure. An arsenal in the capital, Tbilisi, was
surrounded by barbed wire that had been pulled apart at points so
intruders could easily come and go. At a base outside Tbilisi, the
fencing was so ineffective that cows, pigs, horses and mangy dogs
wandered in and out unimpeded.

The base near Kutaisi has no lights to illuminate its 31/2-mile
perimeter at night because it has no electricity from midnight to 7
a.m. But that’s better than another base in central Georgia that has
no electricity at all.

“It’s very difficult for the soldiers to defend this place,” said
Col. Tomas Gagua as he showed visitors around the Tbilisi base. “We
need lights, we need signalization.”

Those able to get in would find a smorgasbord of weaponry. Probably
most useful to terrorists or guerrillas would be the SA-7 Strela
shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles or the similar Igla missiles.
In addition, S-5 57mm and S-8 80mm missiles, with a range of three
to five miles and normally fired from warplanes, can be modified into
shoulder-fired weapons, military officers said. Similar missiles were
launched from donkey carts at hotels and the Iraqi Oil Ministry in
Baghdad last year.

There are also thousands of land mines, burlap bags filled with
raw explosives, crates of ammunition, mortars and Alazan missiles.
“Everything that lies here should be worried about,” said Capt. Zaza
Khvedelidze, deputy commander at one base.

In many cases, there are no inventories, so if anything is taken it
might not be missed. It is unclear how much has been pilfered over
the years, but some officers said they suspected Georgian arms have
wound up in the hands of paramilitary forces in the separatist regions
of Ajaria, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, as well as the territory of
Nagorno-Karabakh, claimed by both Armenia and Azerbaijan, and the
war-torn Russian republic of Chechnya.

“Everything’s possible. Nothing’s impossible,” said Maj. Paatu
Enukidze, chief of staff at the Tbilisi base. Soldiers earn just
$50 a month and sometimes have to wear civilian clothes because no
uniforms are available, so they are susceptible to payoffs. “For
$1,000 to $1,500,” said Enukidze, “you can buy anything.”

At the base near Kutaisi, army officials reported thwarting two
attempts to steal rocket parts and gunpowder in the last year,
one of them by local police officers. Maj. Guram Chinaladze, the
base commander, expressed confidence no one had gotten away with any
weapons. But he added, “All the weapons kept here are really dangerous,
and we’re really trying to secure them.”

At the request of the Georgian government, the OSCE last year began
a program to recycle and destroy stockpiles of munitions. So far,
officials reported that they have dismantled 13,000 rounds of artillery
and antiaircraft ammunition and by next month expect to have destroyed
nearly 500 air-dropped bombs, 47 ground-to-air missiles and another
2,000 antiaircraft shells.

But the OSCE estimated that the Georgians still have more than 1
million antiaircraft shells, among other ordnance. Officials are
seeking funds from OSCE member states to continue the disposal program
until next year.

The Georgians are also working with Imanual Yakov’s Israeli-Spanish
firm to improve security at their bases and destroy as many of the
arms caches as possible. But in an impoverished country, funds remain
short. Georgia’s national security adviser, Ivane Merabishvili, last
month sent Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld a letter seeking
$6.5 million.

“They don’t have the money,” said Lenny Ben-David, a former Israeli
diplomat lobbying in Washington for the Georgians’ request. “If a
power like the United States would come in, it could be taken care
of. Otherwise it’s going to come back and bite them.”

A lesson in democracy

A lesson in democracy
by Igor Fedyukin, Vitaliy Ivanov, Anna Nikolayeva

SOURCE: Vedomosti, No 88, p.A2

RusData Dialine – Russian Press Digest
May 26, 2004 Wednesday

Pro-democracy group says Russia is headed towards authoritarianism

Russia and other former Soviet countries outside the Baltics lag far
behind most of Europe in political reforms, a pro-democracy nonprofit
group said in a report.

The European Union’s recent expansion to include 10 new members,
eight of them in Eastern Europe, highlights a “widening and worrisome
democracy gap,” said the report, issued Monday by Freedom House.

The group’s annual “Nations in Transit” report tracks progress in
six categories: electoral process; civil society; independent media;
governance; constitutional, legislative and judicial framework;
and corruption.

Russia’s ratings declined in the greatest number of categories (5
out of 6). Azerbaijan, Armenia, Moldova and Ukraine performed better
(4 out of 6 each). Out of the CIS countries, Turkmenistan received
lowest ratings, followed by Belarus, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan
and Kyrgyzstan.

The report states that Russia “is moving further along the
authoritarian path.” In particular, President Putin “strives to
concentrate the power, leaving no space for viable civil society,
independent media or political opposition.”

The State Duma’s independent deputy Vladimir Ryzhkov told Vedomosti he
fully agrees with Freedom House: “Our democracy has indeed degraded
in all aspects, and it has been noted by all the international
organizations that monitor the development of democratic institutions.”

Such ratings “are as relevant to reality as the Pravda’s reports in
the sixties about the hard life of African Americans in the U.S.,”
believes Aleksey Volin, the Cabinet’s former deputy chief of staff.
“Even Armenia has been ranked higher than Russia, although there the
presidential elections and the state of opposition sparked serious
criticism of foreign observers,” Volin remarks. “And if Freedom
House believes that the status of Russian-speaking minorities in
the Baltic states corresponds to the international norms, then the
Pravda’s reports about life in the U.S. were absolutely true.”