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By Armen Zakarian
The leader of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), Hrant Markarian, denied on Thursday that the party has distanced itself from his radical views on domestic and foreign policy to avoid further confrontation with its partners in the ruling coalition.

Markarian said the pan-Armenian party’s congress which finished its work on Tuesday stood by his harsh criticism of its government allies and approved of his calls for a tougher line on neighboring Turkey and Georgia. “One should not think that Dashnaktsutyun could have hesitant approaches in fighting for justice and achieving national goals,” he told a news conference.

Markarian set off a potential government crisis in Armenia on February 6with his opening speech at the congress, in which he implicitly accused Dashnaktsutyun’s coalition partners of manipulating last year’s parliamentary elections. He also rebuked President Robert Kocharian for his perceived reluctance to ensure the rule of law and scale back rampant corruption.

None of this was mentioned in the congress’s concluding declaration that was made public on Wednesday, however. The document says only that Dashnaktsutyun will continue to strive for “justice” and “the eradication of economic monopolies and corruption.”

Markarian claimed that this does not run counter to his discourse. Asked why the statement is short on specifics, he replied that the party meeting was not supposed to address “assessments relating to the past.” He also said he is “not worried” about the highly negative reaction to his speech from other pro-Kocharian forces, notably the more influential Republican Party of Armenia (HHK).

The HHK leader in parliament, Galust Sahakian, warned earlier that Dashnaktsutyun will face “serious consequences” if Markarian’s controversial remarks are included in the party statement.

But Markarian scoffed at the veiled threat of Dashnaktsutyun’s expulsion from the government, saying that he does not even known Sahakian. “Who is he? I don’t know such person at this level,” he said.

In an television interview broadcast late on Wednesday, Kocharian said the Dashnaktsutyun criticism did not open a rift between himself and the party. But he said it should be more “cautious” in its attacks on government-connected tycoons whom the Dashnaks hold responsible for many of the country’s grave problems.

“Yes, we must act with restraint,” Markarian reacted. “We are restrained to the extent that we do not offend or humiliate anybody. But we can not be so restrained as to cover up the truth.”
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