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Armenian Political Party Opts Out of Governing Coalition


YEREVAN (AP) - A leading liberal party decided Thursday to opt out of the governing coalition in the Armenian parliament, one of its leaders said.

Orinats Yerkir (Country Ruled by Law) made the decision during a session of its political council, Oganes Markarian, a lawmaker and a member of the party's leadership, said in televised remarks.

The decision means that the party's leader, Artur Bagdasarian, will have to resign as parliament speaker and two other senior party members will have to give up their Cabinet posts.

Orinats Yerkir has been part of the governing coalition since 2003 when it teamed up with the Republican Party and Dashnak-Tsutyun. It had 20 seats in the 131-seat parliament.

Markarian didn't explain the motives behind the party's decision, but some attributed it to a recent political scandal triggered by Bagdasarian's remarks.

Bagdasarian reportedly told a German newspaper last month
that Armenia's future lies with the European Union and NATO, and that Russia should not block its Westward path - a statement that should have vexed Russia, which has a military base in Armenia.

Armenian President Robert Kocharian quickly disavowed the
speaker's statement, saying that the Caucasus nation doesn't have plans to join NATO.

Amid the scandal, seven lawmakers from Orinats Yerkir resigned from the party.
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