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By Emil Danielyan

A senior U.S. diplomat met Friday with Prime Minister Andranik Markarian to urge Armenia to support President George W. Bush’s proposals for an upcoming global conference in Mexico organized by the United Nations.

Official sources said the meeting between Markarian and U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John Ordway followed the latter’s written message asking the government in Yerevan “to familiarize itself with the issues raised by the American side and express its opinion.”

Some 50 heads of state, including Bush, and representatives from 100 other countries, will gather in the Mexican city of Monterrey on March 18-22 to find ways to boost rich nations' funding of programs to help the poor. The Armenian delegation at the UN Conference on Financing for Development will be headed by Markarian.

A UN-sponsored draft resolution for the Monterrey conference urges developed countries of the West to make "concrete efforts" toward sending 0.7 percent of Gross National Product (GNP) to developing countries. The U.S. government appears to have refused to give its unconditional backing to the initiative. The Bush administration argues that the assistance should be increased only after it can be verified that it is being used more effectively.

Reuters reported that Bush on Thursday announced he will offer an extra $5 billion in aid to poor nations that embrace economic and political reforms.

Ordway was as quoted by the Armenian government’s press office as saying that Bush wants the World Bank and other international lending agencies to give more non-repayable grants, as opposed to loans, to the developing nations. Markarian said the idea is “on the whole acceptable.”

“The American diplomat expressed the hope that Armenia too will stand by this economically significant initiative and will somehow express [its support] at the Monterrey conference,” said a government press release. “Prime Minister Andranik Markarian noted that the proposed initiative and ways of supporting it will be discussed before his departure to Mexico.”

Armenia has been a lading per-capita recipient of American economic aid since independence. Its total amount is expected to reach $1.5 billion this year.
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