By Hrach Melkumian
Armenia objects to U.S. plans to launch a military campaign against Iraq and hopes that the international dispute over Baghdad’s weapons of mass destruction programs will be settled peacefully, Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian said on Wednesday.
“I would like to express the hope that there will be no military action [against Iraq],” Oskanian told reporters.
Oskanian said the Armenian government believes that the attack on Iraq would have “negative consequences” for the countries of the region. He said Yerevan is also concerned about the safety of its diplomatic personnel in Iraq and the country’s ethnic Armenian community.
The Armenian embassy in Baghdad was opened in February 2001 in the presence of Oskanian and other top Armenian diplomats. Oskanian, who was also accompanied by a large delegation of Armenian businessmen, met with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein the next day.
The move underscored Armenia’s interest in forging commercial links with the oil-rich Middle Eastern country which has been hit hard by decade-long UN sanctions.
Last July, an Armenian company owned by a pro-Iraqi lawmaker, Ghukas Ulikhanian, won the right to buy and resell 2 million barrels of Iraqi crude oil under the UN oil-for-food program. Several other Armenian firms are also seeking lucrative oil quotas. According to Ulikhanian, the Armenian companies taking an interest in Iraq are coordinating their actions with the authorities in Yerevan.