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Hrant Bagratian, a former prime minister affiliated with the Armenian National Congress (HAK), on Thursday further distanced himself from the opposition alliance and said he would like to run in the upcoming presidential election.

Bagratian made clear that he will be ready to join the presidential race if HAK leader Levon Ter-Petrosian decides not to contest the election scheduled for February 18. He said his presidential bid also requires the official backing of his Azatutyun (Freedom) party, one of more than a dozen opposition groups aligned in Ter-Petrosian’s bloc. “Right now it’s a mere wish,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).

Ter-Petrosian, who was the main opposition candidate in Armenia’s last presidential election, has still not announced whether he will join the race, adding to uncertainty over President Serzh Sarkisian’s main challengers. Some observers expect that he will make a statement during Saturday’s congress of the largest of the HAK parties, the Armenian Pan-National Movement (HHSh). Bagratian’s party will hold its own pre-election convention three days later.

In separate comments posted on Facebook, Bagratian also announced that he is suspending his “active cooperation” with the HAK’s governing Political Council. He said he does not want to “constrain” any members of the council but did not elaborate.

Bagratian is one of several prominent HAK figures who have openly disagreed with Ter-Petrosian’s apparent readiness to form an electoral alliance with the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) of businessman Gagik Tsarukian, a former member of the ruling coalition. Their disagreements with members of Ter-Petrosian’s inner circle do not seem to have eased after Tsarukian unexpectedly decided earlier this month not to run for president.

Levon Zurabian, a top Ter-Petrosian aide, declined to comment on Bagratian’s readiness, in principle, to participate in the February election without the HAK’s backing.
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