Cabinet Delays Action On State TV

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–President Robert Kocharian held off another challenge on Thursday when the cabinet of Prime Minister Aram Sargsyan refrained from discussing proposed changes in the pro-presidential management of Armenian state television at his insistence.

A draft decision submitted by the government department of information and book publishing would seriously change the composition of the "board of shareholders" running Armenian National Television. Sargsyan removed the issue from the agenda of the cabinet session on Thursday after Kocharian’s objections.

If approved–it could lead to the sacking of the current ANT director–Tigran Naghdalian–who has been at the center of a dispute between Kocharian and his rivals grouped around premier Sargsyan.

The Unity bloc allied with the prime minister demanded last week that Naghdalian and the chief of Kocharian’s administration be fired for allegedly misinforming the public about the criminal investigation into the October 27 parliament shootings. Political tension has run high since Kocharian sharply rejected the demand.

But the head of the information department–Tigran Hakobian–claimed that his initiative "is not connected at all with Unity’s latest statement because I had submitted that draft decision on December 6." The fact that Sargsyan did not want to approve it against Kocharian’s will "underscores the prime minister’s respect for the presidential institution and freedom of speech," he told RFE/RL. Hakobian argued that the current pro-Kocharian board of ANT is "ineffectual."

But a presidential spokeswoman–Hasmik Petrosian–said the proposed changes do not aim to improve ANT’s work and have "a totally different purpose." In her words–Kocharian will be opposed to any changes in ANT until the adoption of a law on television by the parliament.

In another development–Petrosian denied a report by the local newspaper "Aravot" that Kocharian has offered a senior military post to the former commander of the Nagorno-Karabakh Defense Army–General Samvel Babayan–in a bid to offset the influence of domestic army commanders allied with Sargsyan.

Defense Minister Vagharshak Harutiunian said the report "does not correspond to reality."

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