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By Ruzanna Khachatrian
Two prominent opposition leaders predicted on Thursday more forceful U.S. efforts to foster the democratization of Armenia’s political system after a meeting in Yerevan with a large group of American policy experts.

Aram Sarkisian of the Hanrapetutyun (Republic) party and Artashes Geghamian of the National Unity Party (AMK) were among the top Armenian oppositionists invited to a dinner with a delegation of experts from the U.S. Congress and the German Marshall Fund, a U.S. think-tank.

Members of the delegation had a separate meeting with leaders of the Armenian parliament’s pro-government majority earlier in the day. They declined to be interviewed.

“After the reelection of George W. Bush there will be a change in the political situation around the world and Armenia in particular. Today’s meeting proved that my prediction is right,” Sarkisian told RFE/RL, highlighting his growing expectations of Western support for regime change in Armenia.

Sarkisian denied, however, that his party is seeking financial and logistical support from the United States and the European Union. More important is the convergence of views and approaches,” he said.

Hanrapetutyun is currently in talks with two other opposition groups over the formation of a pro-Western opposition alliance that would not only try to topple President Robert Kocharian but also seek a radical change in Armenian foreign policy traditionally oriented toward Russia.

The talks underscore the increasingly pro-Western discourse of the opposition leaders. Even Geghamian, staunchly pro-Russian in the past, seems to be pinning his hopes on American support.

“The South Caucasus and Armenia in particular are at the center of strategic U.S. interests,” he claimed. “An increasingly great attention will be paid to the deepening of democratization processes in Armenia and neighboring Azerbaijan. All prerequisites will be created for the free expression of popular will.”

Stepan Demirchian, the hitherto most popular opposition politician in Armenia, was more reserved on the subject, though. “We have always relied and will rely on our people,” he told RFE/RL.

The opposition leaders and their pro-Kocharian counterparts said they discussed with the American visitors the political situation in Armenia and the region as well as possible developments there.

(RFE/RL photo: Aram Sarkisian.)
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