Babayan Seen As Likely Karabakh Prime Minister

STEPANAKERT (RFE/RL)–Rumors circulated in Stepanakert on Friday that Nagorno-Karabakh Defense Minister Samvel Babayan is poised to become the republic’s new prime minister. However–there was no official confirmation of Babayan’s appointment yet.

Karabakh President Arkady Ghoukassian on Thursday fired Prime Minister Jirayr Poghosian and his government for what he said was failure to achieve a major economic improvement during its one year in office. Ghoukassian assumed prime ministerial duties until the appointment of a new government.

Commentators in Stepanakert said Babayan is the most likely candidate to replace Poghosian. Some of them claimed that the influential general is currently looking for a successor to head the Karabakh army.

Babayan is believed to have played the central role in the forced resignation one year ago of then prime minister Leonard Petrosian. He said at the time that he is ready to take over the premiership on the condition that he be allowed to keep the post of defense minister. It was understood that a combination of the two jobs is not being discussed at the moment.

It remains to be seen what the Armenian government’s reaction will be to Babayan’s possible appointment. President Robert Kocharian and Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsyan have yet to react to the latest change of Karabakh’s government.

No date has been announced for the appointment of a new government. In a move that puzzled observers–two senior Karabakh army officers were relieved of their duties the same day.

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