ARF Government Ties Discussed by Leaders

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–At a press conference held on Tuesday–Vahan Hovanessian–representative of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation Executive Council of Armenia discussed several issues concerning the ARF and the government of Armenia. He emphasized that the ARF’s agreement with government policies is not a guaranteed posture on behalf of the party–but that the party takes issues at their individual merits.

He informed reporters that a delegation of the ARF Executive Council of Armenia will meet with Prime Minister Armen Darbinian on Saturday–to discuss several issues.

Turning to the 1999 federal budget–which was recently approved by the National Assembly–Hovanessian said that upon the completion of the ARF’s examination and study of the budget the Executive Council of Armenia will issues its position on the budget.

Adding to Hovanessian’s commen’s–Executive Council member Armen Rustamian said that there was a change of course in government in 1988 and more changes are expected to follow–as Armenia develops its governmental structures. He added that this was evidenced by the new Judicial system taking shape since Monday.

Hovanessian also commented on an ARF-issued list of names of former members of government accused of participating in embezzlement and corrupt activities–saying that the party still awaits to hear the government’s reaction. "If the names on that list have been placed there wrongly–then we must be held accountable–but if they are true–then action must be taken," explained Hovanessian.

Rustamian added that more names would soon be publicized. The ARF leaders also announced that the party is embarking on "comprehensive" cooperation with the influential Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov–one of the likeliest candidates for the Russian presidency–reported Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

The leaders announced that the party had reached an "agreement on comprehensive cooperation" last month with Luzhkov’s Otechestvo (Fatherland) center-left political alliance.

Rustamian said Luzhkov left the impression of a "penetrating person" during their meeting in Moscow on December 28.

Hovanessian said the ARF and Otechestvo share the same "social democratic" ideology and praised Luzhkov for what he said is a rejection of "inter-ethnic hatred in Russia."

He said his party will help Otechestvo become a member of the Socialist International–which the ARF joined in 1907.

"Luzhkov stands for a just solution to the Karabakh conflict and his ideas are close to ours," Rustamian said without elaborating.

Observers regard Luzhkov as one of the main contenders in the next presidential election in Russia–expected no later than summer 2000. The popular Moscow mayor reportedly enjoys the support of the country’s powerful political and economic circles. An estimated one million ethnic Armenia’s now live in Russia.

Hovanessian said the kind of cooperation the ARF and Otechestvo are engaging in is the best way to further Russian-Armenian relations. He slammed those Armenian groups that have collected signatures in support of joining the Russia-Belarus union.

"We support close inter-party relations with Russia’s political forces but not a collection of signatures for getting into Russia’s pocket," he said.

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