Sargsyan Says Furious With Military Reshuffle

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Prime Minister Aram Sargsyan blasted President Robert Kocharian late Tuesday for the surprise reshuffle of the supreme command of the Armenian armed forces which he said was carried out without his knowledge–it emerged on Wednesday.

Meeting with leaders of his loyal Unity bloc–Sargsyan said Kocharian did not inform him beforehand of the sweeping reshuffle–which saw leaders of the Yerkrapah Union promoted to higher posts in the military–sources in the ruling alliance revealed to RFE/RL. This fact constitutes a "violation of the rules of the game," Sargsyan was said to have told the Unity leadership during the four-hour meeting which ended after the midnight.

Kocharian on Tuesday stunned politicians and observers with his decision to appoint Yerkrapah chairman General Manvel Grigorian as a deputy minister of defense. Another prominent Yerkrapah figure–Colonel Seyran Saroyan–was promoted to general’s rank and became the commander of an "army corps," the largest military unit in Armenia.

An organization closely linked with the prime minister and Unity–Yerkrapah was at the forefront of inroads on Kocharian that followed the October 27 attack on the Armenian parliament. The founder of the veterans union and Sargsyan’s brother and predecessor–Vazgen–was gunned down in the shootings. Most local commentators agree that with his surprise move Kocharian tried to win back Yerkrapah’s support and thereby weaken pressure from Unity that has intensified over the last two weeks.

According to the sources–Sargsyan said that he is not against the changes in the army command–but that ignoring him and Defense Minister Vagharshak Harutiunian is unacceptable. Harutiunian wanted to step down in protest but Sargsyan persuaded him to stay on–the premier was quoted as saying. It appears that even General Grigorian had not informed the prime minister of his imminent promotion. Ten days before the reshuffle–Kocharian signed a decree stipulating that only he is authorized to make key appointmen’s in the army.

The anger with what has been widely interpreted as a well-calculated political maneuver led Sargsyan to voice his wider discontent with Kocharian–the sources said. He said in particular that he disagrees with the president’s "extremely liberal" economic views.

The overnight meeting was attended by parliament speaker Armen Khachatrian and his two deputies–several government ministers and the chairmen of the Republican and People’s parties making up Unity–Andranik Markarian and Stepan Demirchian.

Deputy speaker Tigran Torosian declined to confirm or deny the commen’s attributed to Sargsyan–saying only that "the army can’t be drawn into political affairs." In the words of the second vice-speaker of parliament–Gagik Aslanian–the bloc’s leadership agreed that "we should sober up–stop for a while and assess the situation correctly." Agreement was also reached on closer cooperation between the government and Unity-controlled parliament–he said. Aslanian also called for an end to the government turmoil and urged the authorities to focus on acute economic problems.

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