Kocharian Meets top Army Brass

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–President Robert Kocharian met with Defense Minister Mikael Harutiunian and the top brass of Armenia’s Armed Forces during a visit to the Defense Ministry in Yerevan Thursday. In a short statement, Kocharian’s office said Harutiunian and top army generals briefed their commander-in-chief on their work done this year and "activities mapped out for next year." The statement said that Kocharian also discussed ongoing defense reforms, which are meant to bring the Armenian military into greater conformity with Western standards. No details were, however, reported. Kocharian had previously visited the Defense Ministry last April to introduce its newly appointed head, Harutiunian, to the ministry staff. "Security is a high priority for the country, and our policy is aimed and will be aimed at further boosting the army’s combat-readiness and paying particular attention to security issues in general," he said during that meeting. Armenia’s defense spending is projected to grow, in U.S. dollar terms, by over 30 percent to approximately $400 million in 2008. Armenian leaders say the planned increase is a response to Azerbaijan’s soaring military budget. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev said last month that Azerbaijan’s military budget will grow by $300 million to $1.3 billion in 2008 as part of his government’s efforts to change the balance of forces in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in Azerbaijan’s favor.

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