Babayan Discusses Changes in Karabakh

YEREVAN (RFE/RL/Noyan Tapan)–The defense minister of Nagorno-Karabakh on Monday rejected allegations that his personal ambition was behind the government crisis–and ruled out any interference in the formation of the new cabinet.

Speaking at a news conference in Stepanakert–Lt.-Gen. Samvel Babayan accused "certain individuals" of trying to "discredit" him and make him a "scapegoat," without specifying names. Babayan denied that his personal interests caused the resignation of Prime Minister Leonard Petrossian.

Reports in the Armenian media have said serious differences with the powerful defense minister was the main reason for Petrossian’s resignation. According to some speculations–Babayan was intent on becoming prime minister. But Nagorno-Karabakh President Arkady Ghoukassian said on Wednesday that he will assume prime ministerial duties.

Babayan also charged that the unspecified persons want to "attribute to themselves" the Karabakh army’s victories over Azerbaijan in 1992 to 1994.

"During the war–I took the full responsibility for the outcome of all military operations," he said. Apart from the virtually full control of the disputed region–the Karabakh Armenian army managed to take control of some ten percent of the territory of Azerbaijan proper under Babayan’s command. "It is unacceptable to link everything happening in Karabakh to my name," he complained. In a bid to explain his perceived influence beyond military matters–Babayan said: "I initiate construction of houses and repair of streets only to show civilian officials that this can be done with the existing scarce resources."

Babayan said he would be able to take over as Karabakh premier–but in view of the current "artificially exaggerated situation" he will not hold this post even if Ghoukassian offers it to him. He said he will not participate in the formation of the new government–but will not remain "indifferent" to its composition. He said he will be ready to resign as defense minister unless the government undergoes serious staff changes. "We need young but experienced and skillful people to work in the government," he said.

Also–the general today announced that his brother–Interior Minister Karen Babayan–steps down to end "unnecessary gossip." He said the resignation was in the "state’s interests" but gave no details.

Karabakh President Arkady Ghoukassian received Prime Minister Leonard Petrossian Monday–at which time Petrossian submitted his resignation.

"The main point is that the president has made a decision," Petrossian told Noyan Tapan. He described it as the key factor that would ease the internal political tension and normalize the work of government structures.

Speaking about his plans for the future–Petrossian said that first he needed a little rest and that his future activities would depend on what he was offered.

Petrossian thanked the president and the cabinet members.

He also appreciated Armenia’s assistance to Karabakh which was consistent during the entirety of his term in office. Petrossian also expressed gratitude to all Diasporan organizations which had assisted and supported the government programs.

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