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By Ruzanna Stepanian
The Armenian government has refused to allow former President Levon Ter-Petrosian and his opposition allies to hold their upcoming conference in its main conference hall, a spokeswoman said on Monday.

The opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) plans to hold the conference this Friday and applied for a relevant permission earlier this month. The auditorium in question, a traditional venue for indoor gatherings organized by various Armenian parties, was made available to Ter-Petrosian and his loyalists in the past.

Meri Harutiunian, head of the government’s press service, told RFE/RL that the HAK application has been turned down. She said the chief of the government staff, David Sargsian, notified an aide to Ter-Petrosian about the decision in a phone conversation on Friday.

Levon Zurabian, a leading member of the HAK, condemned this as a “blatant violation of law” and demanded that the government give an official written response to the alliance. “The government’s behavior is a simple mockery,” he told RFE/RL. “For us phone calls don’t matter. There was an official application and the government was obliged to officially respond in writing.”

“The authorities are so terrified by a possible outburst of popular discontent that they fear making a conference hall available to the opposition,” said Zurabian. “This is the best proof of the government’s weakness.”

According to Zurabian, the Hanrapetutyun (Republic) party, one of the 18 opposition groups affiliated with the HAK, has lodged a fresh application to Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian’s office expressing the alliance’s readiness to hold the conference on December 21 or in the following days. Its rejection could lead the Ter-Petrosian-led opposition to follow through on its threats to move the gathering to neighboring Georgia, he said. Still, Zurabian noted that that is a “very complicated option.”

(Photolur photo: Ter-Petrosian and his allies meet in the government hall in December 2007.)
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