By Atom Markarian
In a rare political statement, Energy Minister Armen Movsisian on Wednesday added his voice to the chorus of condemnations addressed by President Robert Kocharian and his allies to Armenia’s opposition.
Movsisian said the opposition drive to force Kocharian from power might reflect very negatively on the country’s overall socioeconomic situation and the energy sector in particular. “I condemn the opposition actions,” he told a news conference. “If they want regime change, they have to wait until [the presidential elections of] 2008.”
The minister claimed that further opposition street protests could jeopardize the implementation of Armenia’s multimillion-dollar energy projects with neighboring Iran. He referred to the planned construction of a natural gas pipeline and a hydro-electric power plant on the Armenian-Iranian border. He also mentioned government plans to secure a $140 million loan from Japan for the reconstruction of a key thermal power plant in Yerevan
The Armenian government says work on the $100 million pipeline is likely to get underway by the end of this year and to be completed in less than two years. A final agreement on its implementation is expected to be signed during the upcoming visit to Yerevan by Iran’s minister for oil and gas.
Movsisian did not specify how the political tensions in Armenia might scuttle the deals. He said only that the opposition campaign for regime change damages the country’s “international reputation.”
Movsisian cited government statistics showing an increase in electricity production and a decrease in the sector’s substantial financial losses in the first quarter of this year. Similar upbeat figures have been reported by other senior government officials over the past week.
Their successive news conferences appear to be part of a government effort to discourage disgruntled Armenians from attending opposition gatherings.