Kocharian Discusses Karabakh, Energy, Elections at News Conference

YEREVAN (Combined Sources)During a meeting with students and faculty of Yerevan State University Friday, President Robert Kocharian said his next meeting with his Azeri counterpart Ilham Aliyev would likely take place in St. Petersburg, Russia on June 10. In the same address, Kocharian discussed Armenia’s energy future and touched on the May 12 elections. Kocharian said this meeting–if it takes place–was supposed to further specify the situation regarding the negotiations to end the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The Armenian side should be prepared always to resist any tension… The attention we are paying to our armed forces–raising its efficiency and upgrading our weapons–suggests that we are not sleeping and security is a high priority for the country, and our policy is aimed and will be aimed at further boosting the armys combat-readiness and paying particular attention to security issues in general. We are very determined to guarantee the security of Nagorno-Karabakh, announced Kocharian. Kocharian said the April 18 meeting between Armenian and Azeri foreign ministers in Belgrade gave rise to optimistic notes, but the president added. I am not that optimistic now. Kocharian also said that Armenia should certainly have a nuclear power production facility. He said the government was considering this option and practical steps were expected to take place over the course of the next two years. Kocharian said the best option for the country would be to build a new modern plant with advanced technologies on the infrastructures of the Metzamor power plant built in 1970s. Kocharian said specific actions with regard to construction of a new power plant or a major reconstruction of the current one may come in 2012-2013. Armenia’s Soviet-era Metzamor nuclear power plant, similar in design to Chernobyl’s nuclear power station, is scheduled to close in 2016 in line with Armenia’s commitmen’s before the European Union. Last year Armenian government pushed through the parliament a legal amendment allowing it to seek for foreign investors who would be willing to provide an estimated $1 billion needed for construction of a new power plant. Earlier this month the Russian and Armenian governmen’s agreed to jointly develop Armenia’s uranium reserves. A relevant agreement was signed in Yerevan by prime minister Serzh Sarkisian and Sergey Kirienko, the head of Russia’s Federal Agency on Atomic Energy (Rosatom). Under the agreement Armenia and Russia will set up a joint venture to explore areas in the southeastern Syunik region, where uranium reserves were estimated by Soviet geologists at 30,000 metric tons. Turning to the upcoming May 12 parliamentary elections, Kocharian warned the Armenian opposition against challenging the official results of the polls in the streets, saying that fresh attempts to unseat him would meet with a tough government response. Kocharian said the Armenian authorities will do everything in their power to ensure the freedom and fairness of the May 12 vote. But he stressed that the countrys leading political parties, which appoint most members of various-level election commissions, are equally responsible for its proper conduct. Kocharian claimed that opposition parties are preparing ground for allegations of massive vote rigging by making what he described as highly unrealistic assessmen’s of their popularity. So it is very likely that after May 12 we will see a number of news conferences, and the dissatisfied section of election contenders will definitely state that the elections were rigged, he said. The danger is that after such declarations a question will arise: If somebody stole your votes, why arent you reclaiming your votes and what are the ways of reclaiming your votes? Perhaps one of those ways is to once again try to undermine the countrys political stability. They may test it, but there would definitely be an adequate response. Nobody should doubt that. It is clear to everyone that the illegitimate way of coming to power costs countries and peoples very dearly, said Kocharian. The Armenian leader stated at the same time that most of his political opponents have abandoned radical extremist agendas and that the election campaign has been quite tranquil and civilized so far. He insisted that they are able to hold campaign meetings across the country without any government obstacles, rejecting claims to the contrary made by opposition leaders. Kocharian also indicated that Armenia’s main pro-presidential parties are well placed to win a majority in the next National Assembly because of recent years robust economic growth and improvement in living standards which he attributed to policies pursued by his government. He specifically mentioned the governing Republican Party and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation as well as the Prosperous Armenia Party. The authorities will do everything in their power to have good results in the [conduct of the] elections, said Kocharian. But it must also be clear that responsibility for the elections is born not only by the authorities but also political forces. Especially those political forces that form [election] commissions

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