Ambassador Evans President Kocharian Discuss US Concerns about Armenian Elections

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–US Ambassador to Armenia John Evans met with President Robert Kocharian Tuesday to discuss how to prove his administration’s stated commitment to democracy that was questioned by the United States in the wake of a recent referendum.

Washington has stressed that Armenia needs to prove its commitment to democracy in order to receive additional multimillion-dollar assistance under its Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) program. A brief statement by Kocharian’s office said the meeting focused on "issues pertaining to financial assistance to be provided to Armenia" under the program launched by President George W. Bush two years ago.

In its statement–the US embassy in Yerevan said that Evans met Kocharian to "discuss concerns that have arisen in Washington and elsewhere in connection with the November 27 referendum on the constitutional amendmen’s."

"The Ambassador and President Kocharian discussed possible steps that might be taken to reassure the United States that Armenia remains committed to strengthening democratic institutions and to the holding of free and fair elections in 2007 and 2008."

The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC)–a US government agency managing the scheme–expressed last month concern about fraud reported during the Armenian referendum. Its chief executive–John Danilovich–criticized the Armenian authorities’ "lack of transparency and commitment to open and fair elections."

Although Danilovich in a separate letter to Kocharian stresses Armenia’should take "corrective steps" before it can receive $235.6 million in MCA funds promised by the corporation–

US officials–have not made clear exactly what the Kocharian administration should do to address their concerns. They have said only that the MCC board will await Yerevan’s response to Danilovich’s letter before meeting to decide how to proceed.

The assistance program–which is valued at one third of Armenia’s 2005 national budget–is based on the Armenian government’s proposals submitted to MCC last spring. Most of the MCA funds–$146 million–would be spent on rebuilding and expanding the country’s battered irrigation networks. Another $67 million would go to pay for repairs of about 1,000 kilometers of rural roads that have fallen into disrepair since the Soviet collapse.

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