YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–President Serzh Sarkisian has congratulated his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on his hotly disputed reelection that has sparked angry street protests in and outside Iran.
About 50 supporters of Ahmadinejad’s main opposition challenger, Mir Hossein Musavi, gathered outside the Iranian embassy in Yerevan on Monday to condemn what they see the fraudulent official results of the June 12 presidential election that gave a landslide victory to the incumbent.
The protesters, most of them young Iranians studying in Armenian universities, chanted “We don’t need a dictator!” and “Musavi, we stand by you!” and held English-language placards accusing Ahmadinejad of rigging the ballot. “Where is my vote?” read one of them.
Those results have been accepted by the Armenian government. Sarkisian on Sunday “warmly” congratulated Ahmadinejad and “the friendly people of Iran” on the election outcome.
“I am confident that together with you we will continue our joint efforts to deepen and strengthen Armenian-Iranian relations in various fields,” the Armenian leader said in a letter made public by his office. “That is what the traditional mutual respect between our peoples requires.”
Armenia has maintained close political and economic links with its large Muslim neighbor and one of its few transport conduits to the outside world ever since independence. Armenian-Iranian economic cooperation deepened during Ahmadinejad’s first presidential term, resulting in the construction of a pipeline that began pumping Iranian natural gas to Armenia last month.
Yerevan and Tehran agreed to press ahead with the implementation of more multimillion-dollar joint projects during Sarkisian’s official visit to the Islamic Republic in mid-April. Those include the construction of an Armenian-Iranian railway and a hydro-electric station on the Arax river separating the two nations.
Speaking after talks with Sarkisian, Ahmadinejad praised his country’s “very deep-rooted and friendly” relations with Armenia and described as “very bright and promising” prospects for their development. “We are to broaden our cooperation at regional and international levels,” he said.