Pro Karabakh Bloc Alleges ‘Threats’ From Unity

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–An electoral alliance backed by Nagorno-Karabakh’s influential military leader Samvel Babayan Wednesday subjected to harsh criticism the Unity bloc of Defense Minister Vazgen Sargsyan and Karen Demirchian–a long-time former Communist leader.

A leading member of the group–called Right and Accord–Artashes Geghamian–said he will not bow to what he termed "threats to myself and my bloc" coming from Unity–which is seen as a the favorite to win the May 30 elections.

However–Geghamian declined to elaborate on what those threats are. At a recent press conference–President Robert Kocharian said he sympathizes with the electoral goals of Unity.

"I don’t understand the essence of that [Unity] alliance and therefore don’t share that sympathy," Geghamian told reporters.

Asked how he would react to cooperation offers from Sargsyan–Geghamian said he would "reject them categorically."

He predicted that Unity will end up like the Republic bloc of former president Levon Ter-Petrosyan–which disintegrated overnight in February 1998 after dozens of its parliament deputies had defected to Sargsyan’s Yerkrapah group.

"They went to bed as ANM (former ruling Armenian National Movement) members but woke up as Yerkrapah without knowing where Armenia’s frontiers are and without ever holding a gun," Geghamian said.

The unusually critical remarks by the Right and Accord leader may signify a rift between the two powerful defense ministers. Karabakh’s Babayan has been showing an unhidden interest in Armenia’s political life since the start of the election campaign there.

"What Samvel Babayan defended in the battlefield we are have been defending on the political front," said Hrant Khachatrian–another leader of the bloc. The nationalist bloc takes a hard line on the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and advocates a greater government role in economic affairs.

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