Vano Siradeghian Resigns more than 25 Armed Militiamen Arrested New National Council Formed

YEREVAN (Combined Sources)–Yerevan Mayor and chairman of the ruling Armenian National Movement Vano Siradeghian resigned his position as mayor Saturday–as Levon Ter-Petrosyan prepared to visit his Russian counterpart Boris Yeltsin on February 4.

In an appeal to Levon Ter-Petrosyan–Siradeghian submitted his resignation. There is no word on whether his request has been approved.

Sources in Armenia’said that this surprise announcement by the ANM leader indicated that the ruling party was no longer able to retain its spheres of influences within the socio-political life of Armenia–and that its efforts–in recent weeks–to alienate the prime minister and the power ministers have failed.

25 Arrested

Meanwhile–in a television interview Saturday–Interior and National Security Minister Serge Sarkissian confirmed that a group of 25 armed militiamen were arrested by national security forces–adding that a preliminary investigation has already yielded considerable information.

It is unclear whether this group is related to several recent assassination attempts on the lives of high-ranking government officials–however it is known that several of the 25 have previously been under suspicion of organizing assassination attempts in Armenia.

The Hayots Ashkhar newspaper reported that forensic analysis revealed that the car occupied by Ter-Petrosyan bodyguard Romik Ghazarian when he was allegedly shot at–was not moving and Ghazarian was not in it when it came under fire on Jan. 20. Ghazarian claimed that he was shot at as he was driving along a highway. If the forensic reports are true–Hayots Ashkhar says–then the attempt on Ghazarian’s life was "faked."

It also known that at least two of the 25 were under suspicion and were being investigated on plotting the 1994 assassination attempt against special prosecutor Vladimir Grigorian. At that juncture there were suspicions that interior ministry forces were involved in that attempt while Siradeghian was interior minister.

New National Council Formed

A group of more than 500 representatives of public-political organizations–academicians and intellectuals gathered at Yerevan’s Cinema House–where a National Council was formed to combat the current state of affairs in Armenia.

The National Council is comprised of academicians Raphael Ghazarian–Lendroush Khourshoudian and Vladimir Khodjabegian; writers Silva Kaputikian and Razmig Davoyan; painter Sarkis Mouradian artist Henrik Hovanessian; actress Janna Galoustian; writer/commentator Berdj Zeytountsian and Hratchik Simonian.

In his remarks Ghazarian noted that the National Council did not aspire to acquire any political office–and as such–will forfeit its rights immediately after new elections are held.

He also announced that prior to the gathering–the group visited Armenia’s Defense Minister Vazgen Sargssian who welcomed and encouraged their efforts.

The council pledged to take steps in restoring order and rule of law in the country–and professed a peaceful change in leadership through the union of all national forces and the public.

Those gathered at the Cinema House called for the immediate resignation of Levon Ter-Petrosyan and urged for early elections.

The creation of the national council was welcomed by representatives of the Democratic Party of Armenia–the Armenian Revolutionary Federation–Intellectual Armenia organization–as well as representatives of other political organizations in Armenia.

ARF Executive Council member Vartan Petrosian stressed that the ARF has always called for Ter-Petrosyan’s resignation and "currently it advocates the same position and thus completely supports the National Council."

Petrosian added that "the self-sacrifice of the Karabakh freedom fighters and the imprisonment of Vahan Hovanessian and Hrand Markarian have now served their purpose."

Remarks by the deputy commander of the Yerkrapah battalion–troops once loyal to the government–Albert Bazeyan–were notable in that he stated that the battalion and its soldiers were forced to take a political stand on the situation in Armenia.

Bazeyan outlined that the battalion was formed to serve the Armenian nation and remained true to the liberation struggle in Karabakh–however–"it has become evident that high ranking political officials in this country does not reflect the true will of the people."

"The Yerkrapahs have believed in the nation’s leader and his `victory–stability and progress,’ pledge–and as such have protected him. But–now–they see that the commander in chief of the armed forces (the president) is working against the collective will of its people," stressed Bazeyan.

With a call for new and free elections–Bazeyan called for all Yerkrapah forces who are still members of the ANM to immediately leave the embattled party.

At the conclusion of the gathering–Ghazarian read a statement on behalf of the National Council.

"We are convinced–that in light of the current situation in Armenia–the government–under the leadership of the prime minister and with the assistance of the public–must–not only continue to fulfill its obligation–but also to utilize all possible means to avoid any threat and to immediately restore order and rule of law in the country. After the immediate removal of all corrupt government officials–[the council] should work toward calling new parliamentary and presidential elections," the announcement read.

Meanwhile former prime minister Hrant Bagratian joined in the criticism of the Ter-Petrosyan administration–saying–in an Aravot interview–that "Those who call for pragmatism must remember the people who shed their blood." He disagreed that Armenia would suffer if it supported Karabakh in the conflict resolution process–adding that "even if Karabakh prevents us from developing–we have no right to abandon it."


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