In an extensive interview with “Hayastani Hanrapetutyun” Prime Minister Andranik Markarian denies as “not serious” the persistent rumors about his resignation. Markarian also claims positive accomplishments during his 18-month prime ministership. He goes on to caution that the global economic slowdown resulting from the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States will take its toll on the Armenian economy in the coming months. Markarian also criticizes his former political allies who have turned against President Kocharian. He says they are only driven by a desire to return to power and have no programs to improve economic situation.
“Aravot” and “Haykakan Zhamanak” report that two former Markarian allies, Albert Bazeyan and Aram Sarkisian, have responded to Kocharian’s accusations of corruption and misrule. Sarkisian denies that he failed miserably in his management of the recently privatized Ararat Cement company. The ex-premier says the Swiss group Holcim, Ararat Cement’s new owner, has asked him to stay on as its chief executive. This, according to Sarkisian, is the best evaluation of his track record.
Bazeyan, for his part, hits back, saying that Kocharian’s figures showing the Yerevan municipality was mired in corruption under the former mayor are “false.” He says the presidential administration and the government had forced him to give land to companies controlled by the powerful Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian.
Commenting on the latest political war of words, “Iravunk” says Kocharian’s “propaganda campaign is quite primitive.” “Visiting yet another business enterprise, Robert Kocharian holds a news briefing to feed the population with more fairy tales about a bright future awaiting it and personally smear political opponents.” The opposition tactics is also “not the best one.” The opposition troika has allowed the authorities to associate it with Mushegh Saghatelian, the disgraced former head of Armenia’s prisons. The opposition and Kocharian “deserve each other,” according to “Iravunk.” They both resort to “the most disgusting methods” of political struggle.
The pro-presidential “Hayots Ashkhar” compares activities of the “radical opposition” with the attack of an enemy army on the Armenian army’s rear. The opposition must be dealt with accordingly, the paper says without elaborating.
“Yerkir” claims that the government of neighboring Georgia is now more hostile to its ethnic Armenian minority than to Abkhaz separatists. The paper apparently bases this assertion on the recent killing of Armenian civilians in Abkhazia, blamed on Georgian and Chechen militants. Still, it hopes that the upcoming visit to Armenia by President Eduard Shevardnadze “will change a lot of things.”
Premier Markarian also accuses the Tbilisi government of infringing the “basic rights” of Georgia’s Armenians. He tells “Hayastani Hanrapetutyun” that a new Georgian law on local elections will put the Armenian community in “an even worse situation.” “The Georgian authorities have pledged to develop a new development program for Javakhetia,” he says. “But our experience shows that the more programs they draw up the worse is the plight of our co-ethnics.”