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By Emil Danielyan
President Robert Kocharian promised more government efforts to reform and strengthen the military as he introduced Armenia’s newly appointed defense minister, Colonel-General Mikael Harutiunian, to the Defense Ministry staff on Wednesday.

The appointment was announced by Kocharian’s office late Tuesday.

In a separate presidential decree, Harutiunian, 61, was dismissed as chief of the army staff and discharged from the Armed Forces to run the Defense Ministry as a civilian. That significantly increases his chances of serving as defense minister in Armenia’s next government to be formed after the May 12 parliamentary elections.

Harutiunian, 61, was until now not regarded as the favorite to occupy the post that became vacant following Serzh Sarkisian’s appointment as prime minister on April 4. Two other top army generals, Seyran Ohanian and Artur Aghabekian, were thought to be more likely to get the job.

Addressing the ministry staff, Kocharian said Harutiunian will strengthen the army and carry on with defense reforms stemming from Armenia’s individual partnership action plan with NATO. “Security is a high priority for the country, and our policy is aimed and will be aimed at further boosting the army’s combat-readiness and paying particular attention to security issues in general,” he said in televised remarks.

Kocharian also thanked Sarkisian for his “large-scale and effective work” at the helm of the Defense Ministry.

(Photolur photo: Mikael Harutiunian.)
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