Dole Meets Opposition Leaders

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–Meeting with former US Senator Robert Dole on Wednesday–representatives of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation–the National Democratic Union and the "Self-Determination" Union referred to the importance of exercising control over investment of the newly established fund.

SDU Chairman Paruir Hairikian told Noyan Tapan that during the meeting Gagik Mkrtchian–member of the ARF Executive Council and editor-in-chief of Hayots Ashkhar daily and Shavarsh Kocharian–a member of the NDU administration–pointed out that the allocated funds "should be distributed across the whole territory of Armenia and used in Armenia."

Hairikian said that opposition representatives had suggested first of all taking into account news agencies while allocating gran’s. Answering Dole’s question–opposition representatives pointed out that free press only exists in theory in Armenia because free press possibilities get restricted under financial pressure.

Dole was told about the observers’ commen’s of the 1996 presidential election returns. The senator asked what percentage of votes would get the current authorities in case elections were held now. Referring to the 1996 presidential election returns–the opposition representatives said that the data reported in Yerevan did not reflect even approximately the alignment of forces–as the single candidate from the opposition got 1.5 times more votes.

According to Hairikian–Dole realized that he was talking to representatives of forces making up about 60 percent of the actual political spectrum of the country.

The sides agreed on further cooperation and the opposition representatives said they were willing to do their best to contribute to that cooperation. It was also agreed that the opposition would submit its remarks and recommendations regarding the activities of the fund in written form. The fund is due to start its activities next February.

"Recently President Levon Ter-Petrosyan made rather a subtle political statement saying that the solution to the Karabakh conflict should be based on compromises and mutual concessions," former US Senator Robert Dole said during the meeting.

Dole stated that the US draft budget by the House of Representatives of the providing for direct aid to Karabakh is likely to be turned down–that is the president may veto it.

Addressing Article 907 of the Freedom Support Act that relates US aid to Azerbaijan Dole said there were some forces at the Congress that were eager to revise it. "You’ve got a lot of friends in both Houses of Congress–so Armenia is never going to suffer no matter what the decision is," Dole concluded.

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