Vahan Hovhannisian Says Opposition Leaves No Room for Negotiations

YEREVAN (Combined Sources)–National Assembly Vice-speaker and NA ARF faction member Vahan Hovhannisian–said on Thursday that the opposition is not staging a political struggle–but has simply declared war on the authorities.

"When war is declared–there is an imminent threat of danger. So let those who initiated this war not be surprised to see the authorities defending themselves," Hovhannisian said in warning representatives of the opposition Justice party that they could face criminal charges if they act outside the limitations of the law.

"One of the leaders of the Justice party has repeatedly spoken of law and order. Now law and order is being established."

In December 1997–Hovhannisian and 29 other members of ARF–then an opposition party–got prison sentences ranging from three two seven years for "making public calls for a violent overthrow of the government." But Hovhannisian rejected comparisons–saying "Your comparison between the current and former authorities is not correct because we had been arrested for something much less serious than what is going on today."

Hovhannisian said that because opposition deman’s are so great–they leave no room for authorities to step back and negotiate. "We consider the country’s president elected; we think that he has support among people–and when the matter solely concerns his resignation–negotiations become senseless."

The two opposition groups have repeatedly announced their intention to launch a campaign of joint anti-Kocharian street protests by April 13. They are expected to try to block a street in downtown Yerevan leading to the parliament building and presidential palace.

The Yerevan municipality made it clear that it is unlikely to sanction the upcoming demonstrations. "The city authorities find unacceptable statemen’s made at the [opposition] rallies," the city’s mayor Yervand Zakharian–told a news conference. "If those rallies continue with such statemen’s–the Yerevan mayor’s office will not be able to sanction such demonstrations and marches."

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