By Emil Danielyan
Raffi Hovannisian, Armenia’s U.S.-born former foreign minister, denied on Saturday his aides’ announcement that the Lincy Foundation of Armenian-American tycoon Kirk Kerkorian has stopped sponsoring his Yerevan-based think-thank.
The two heads of the Armenian Center for National and International Studies (ACNIS) told RFE/RL on Friday that Lincy will no longer fund activities of the center as well as two publications controlled by Hovannisian. The ACNIS director for research, Tatul Manaserian, said the decision was taken under pressure from Armenian “governing circles” angered by the ex-minister’s support for President Robert Kocharian’s political foes.
“It is untrue that after nearly nine years of service the Center is closing or that the Lincy Foundation is withdrawing its support,” Hovannisian said in a written statement. “Any reports or comments to this effect, regardless of their source, are false.”
The statement provided no explanation for the remarks made by Hovannisian’s subordinates, saying only that RFE/RL circulated “speculative and unfounded information.” It also did not comment on the fate of the daily newspaper “Orran” and a political magazine founded by Hovannisian. According to Manaserian, the two publications, also funded by Lincy, are also facing the possibility of closure.
Some ACNIS employees, who asked not to be identified, claimed that Hovannisian had assured Lincy officials earlier this year that Kerkorian’s money is not used for his political activities, notably his participation in this year’s presidential election.
Hovannisian was denied official registration as a presidential candidate on the grounds that he has not been an Armenian citizen for the past ten years. He subsequently lent his support to Stepan Demirchian, Kocharian’s main opposition challenger.