By Armen Zakarian
Opposition leader Stepan Demirchian flatly denied on Thursday a report in a pro-government Armenian newspaper effectively accusing him of secretly cooperating with Iranian security agencies.
The “Hayots Ashkhar” daily claimed that Demirchian and a senior member of his People’s Party (HZhK), Grigor Harutiunian, had unpublicized meetings with representatives of “Iranian security services” during a recent visit to Tehran. It said the HZhK leaders reached with them “certain agreements on the party’s further activities.”
Harutiunian called the report a “lie,” saying that he and Demirchian were only received by officials from Iran’s Foreign Ministry and National Security Service. He said they also met with leaders of the local chapter of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) which is the dominant force in Iran’s Armenian community.
“If that Dashnak paper meant our four-hour meeting with representatives of the local Dashnaktsutyun branch, then there is nothing I can say,” Harutiunian told RFE/RL. “I can only say that the [Armenian] government’s agents reacted in a similarly hysterical way when Stepan Demirchian was in the United States.”
According to “Hayots Ashkhar,” the trip was initiated by Iranian intelligence. But Harutiunian insisted that the HZhK leaders were invited by the Iranian Foreign Ministry.
The very fact of the Iranian government extending such an invitation to Armenian oppositionists is quite unusual in itself. The newspaper report, attributed to anonymous “HZhK sources,” suggests that the Armenian authorities are not happy with it. “Hayots Ashkhar,” formerly controlled by Dashnaktsutyun, is reputed to be close to the influential Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian.
Sarkisian himself visited Tehran in February to discuss Armenian-Iranian economic projects and other issues of mutual interest. Among top Iranian leaders that visited Yerevan last year were President Mohammad Khattami and intelligence chief Ali Younesi.