13th Anniversary Independence Celebrations

YEREVAN (Combined Sources)–Armenia’s President Kocharian kicked-off official ceremonies marking Armenia’s independence from the Soviet Union–by visiting the Yerablur military cemetery in Yerevan where hundreds of Armenia’s killed during the war with Azerbaijan are buried.

"Today’s Armenia is an established state with a pronounced commitment to deeper economic reforms–democratic transformation and international engagement," Kocharian told government officials–foreign diplomats–and other dignitaries attending an official reception later in the day.

The holiday marks the September 21–1991 referendum in which 94.99% of Armenia’s voted in favor of secession from the Soviet Union–just months before its collapse.

In separate messages to President Robert Kocharian–the presidents of the United States and Russia pledged to strengthen their relations with Armenia

US President George W. Bush described Armenia as a "major partner" of the United States–according to Kocharian’s office.

"The United States will work hard to assist the government and the people of Armenia in achieving economic growth–strengthening democratic institutions and resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict," Bush was quoted as saying. "I expect that cooperation between our nations and the very friendly ties between our peoples will be further reinforced."

"I am particularly thankful for Armenia’s important anti-terrorist support for the United States," he said.

Armenia opened its airspace for the US military aircraft following the September 11 terrorist attacks.

"I am convinced that a further deepening of the Russian-Armenian strategic partnership is in tune with the fundamental interests of our countries and plays an important role in maintaining peace and stability in the Caucasus," read Russia’s President Vladimir Putin letter cited by the Armenian presidential press service.

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