Rumors About Resignation of Kocharian Ally Denied Armenia Media Reacts to Crisis

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–The Armenian government–on Friday–categorically denied rumors that the head of Armenia’s customs department–Rashid Yengibarian–has resigned after state prosecutors implicated him in favoritism and breaches of the law.

The rumors began circulating this morning after the official government daily newspaper "Hayastani Hanrapetutyun" reported that the Prosecutor’s Office charged Yengibarian with abusing his post.

The newspaper said Yengibarian illegally forced law-enforcement officials to stop a criminal case against one of his relatives–who had been accused of embezzlement. The Prosecutor’s Office also accused Yengibarian–who is close to Prime Minister Robert Kocharian–of stopping the reinstatement of a fired customs officers. Earlier–a court in Yerevan had decided that the officer’s dismissal was illegal.

Observers noted that the information was given to the newspaper by the Ter-Petrosyan administration–which had obtained it from the prosecutors. It is not clear whether the prosecutors’ action is connected with the growing differences between Ter-Petrosyan and Kocharian. The presidential press service–the Prosecutor’s Office and Yengibarian himself have refused to provide RFE/RL with commen’s. Meanwhile–the government’s press service told RFE/RL that Kocharian has neither reason–nor intention to dismiss the customs chief.

"The shootings smell of politics," said the "Azg" daily newspaper–because "such an outbreak of personal revenge is impossible within half a week. This will obviously affect Levon Ter-Petrosyan’s stability and can be held against him. "Azg" doesn’t believe that fact that nobody was seriously injured in the incidents is a result of a failed aim. Also–it claims that there is no doubt that the opposition has nothing to do with the attacks–but holds that the violence can harm Prime Minister Robert Kocharian as well–because the so-called "Karabakh group" might be held responsible. Accordingly–"Azg" predicts that some" pro-government organizations will soon denounce him [Kocharian]." The news agency does not rule out the possibility of the involvement of unspecified "external forces" which are trying "to extract concessions from Armenia."

"There will be a continuation" and "everything is possible," assured the opposition news service "Hayots Ashkhar."

"Golos Armenii" saw in the developmen’s a "trap" for Ter-Petrosyan. "No possibility of reconciliation is looming. Only a handful of Armenian National Movement members stand by Ter-Petrosyan. But he will not retreat anyway. And not just because of his nature–but also because renouncing his views on Karabakh would mean a his complete defeat. It would be naive to suggest that the president will succeed in dismissing the prime minister and other powerful ministers. Besides–the Yerkrapah militia would not back him."

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