ARF Voices Opposition to Furthering Iraq Troop Deployment

YEREVAN (Combined Sources)–Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian is likely to ask the National Assembly to extend the stay of Armenia’s small peacekeeping contingent in Iraq at the last four-day session of parliament this year. Meanwhile, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation has not changed its position that Armenian deployment in Iraq threatens the security of thousands of ethnic Armenia’s living there. "Our position has always been known to you," the leader of the party’s faction in parliament, Hrair Karapetian, said. "We explained our position to our coalition partners." The ARF was one of the two parliamentary factions along with the opposition Artarutyun alliance that voted against the decision on the controversial deployment of a small Armenian army unit of peacekeepers in Iraq when it was voted on in 2004. The Republican Party has signaled that it will support the government proposal to extend the stay of Armenia’s 46 troops serving with US-led forces in Iraq. The Republican parliamentary faction leader Galust Sahakian said it is important for Armenia to continue its participation in the "world security process."We cannot remain outside the systems ensuring world security. We must continue to carry out these functions as well," he told RFE/RL. The senior ruling party member claimed that the defense minister’s proposal enjoys the support of most political forces represented in the Armenian parliament, as they, according to him, understand the importance of the mission. Speaking in Yerevan on Wednesday after returning from a visit to Iraq, where he met with the troops, Iraqi defense officials and officials of the US-led coalition, Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian expressed a hope that the parliament would approve an extension of the deployment.

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