Vazgen Manoukian to Run for Presidency

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–"The only solution to current problems is to hold free and fair presidential elections," said parliament member and chairperson of the National Democratic Union Vazgen Manoukian–at a Thursday press conference. "The last two years demonstrated the abilities of illegitimate authorities. I am sure that–now–all conditions for holding free and fair elections will be secured," he added.

Manoukian stated that he was going to run for the office of President. The upcoming NDU congress is scheduled to adopt a resolution regarding Manoukian’s candidacy. The platform which he presented during his campaign in 1996 will remain unaltered. The major issues were to promote democracy in Armenia; to defend the interests of the people of Karabakh; to promote the fulfillment of Karabakh’s just deman’s; to strengthen cooperation with the Diaspora; to restore–to a certain achievable degree–industrial potential. Manoukian stressed that even if he is defeated–free and fair elections would remain his priority.

Manoukian also said that the NDU leadership considers it necessary to adopt a new constitution under which the Republic of Armenia will be a parliamentary republic: "We do not need royal power–but democracy–and in this sense a parliamentary republic is preferable." He noted that–currently–extreme presidential powers and Armenia’s lack of certain preventative mechanisms allow for violation of the law.

According to Manoukian–Armenia is entering a new phase and the present "horror" will soon be eliminated. Expressing his concern over further development of relations within powerful structures–he warned against using suggestive information to prevent it from being used as catalyst for power destruction. Manoukian said it was important to uncover all "dark pages," murders and grand theft–noting–that everyone must take responsibility for crimes committed.

Manoukian urged a continuation of the negotiating process and use of all available instrumen’s to attain peaceful settlement to the Karabakh conflict. Manoukian said it was his belief that the potential of international organizations involved in the process has not yet been exhausted. He also stressed the significance of direct talks between Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan.

According to Manoukian–the Karabakh problem involves three major factors: status–territory and refugees. These problems must be settled with specifications.

If a compromise is reached–the implementation of the program may be carried out in several stages. Finally–the parties must sign a document ensuring common approaches to the settlement: "We do not need a `patched-up’ solution–which sooner of later will bring about new hostilities," Manoukian noted.

Speaking of Armenia-Russia relations the NDU leader said–"I do not think that the power shift in Armenia will affect Armenia-Russia relations. Both countries bear great strategic importance for each other. Whoever comes to power in Armenia will be interested in further strengthening relations with Russia."

Concluding his news conference–Manoukian demanded the release of all political prisoners.

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