TEHRAN (Noyan Tapan) — From a military or legal standpoint nothing threatens Armenia’s independence–however–the present political line of Armenia’s leadership may lead to loss of real political independence–National Democratic Union chairman Vazken Manoukian told a gathering of more than 700 members of the Armenian community of Esfahan–Iran.
Manoukian was in Iran at the invitation of the Iranian government to attend the 18th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution there.
Speaking about Nagorno-Karabakh–Manoukian said that it would be wrong to ascribe success in military operations to any political force–leader or government structure. "The military success in Nagorno-Karabakh has been achieved with the efforts of the whole Armenian people," he said.
Manoukian was critical of the position of western countries–saying that it was mainly influenced by the "oil factor" of Azerbaijan–and consequently prefer to see Nagorno-Karabakh within Azerbaijan. Nevertheless–he noted that the problem could be settled in a way that would be acceptable for Armenia’s–on condition the leadership of Armenia and its people display firmness and wisdom in the face of supposed tough pressure from outside. Manoukian named Russia and Iran among possible allies of Armenia in the matter of the settlement of the Karabakh conflict.
Regarding Armenia-Diaspora relations–the NDU leader sharply criticized the policy of the present Armenian leadership–which he said impedes the adoption of a law on dual citizenship that would enable the majority of the Diasporans to make a great contribution to the development of their historic homeland. According to Manoukian–one of the main principles in current policy in relation to the Diaspora should be the following: "The Armenian leadership should not rule over the Diaspora and the Diaspora should not rule over the Armenian leadership."
At present–70 percent of the Armenian economy is described by experts as a "shadow" one– he said–adding that the success of the "shadow" economy is rampant within law enforcement agencies– customs office and the tax department. However–Manoukian said that the most serious problem was the formation of a system of clans led by Telman Ter-Petrosyan — Levon Ter-Petrosyan’s brother –– Vazgen Sargsian — former Defense Minister — and Vano Siradeghian — Interior Minister turned Mayor –– who control almost all of the country’s economy.
Manoukian also expressed his views on Prime Minister Armen Sarkissian–describing him as a decent and clever man. However–he does not actually wield power and is unable to change the situation– he added.
The former presidential candidate outlined a number of measures to pull the country out of the present situation: abruptly reduce the share of the "shadow" economy and increase budget assignmen’s; eliminate the system of clans; implement structural changes in industry–making investmen’s into priority branches of the economy; integrate into a common economic space with Russia and other members of the Commonwealth of Independent States.
However–according to Manoukian–the changes cannot be implemented without changing the country’s political line. He said "the present leadership is unable to do that as it is stuck in corruption."
Given the situation–Manoukian was confident that the opposition will again unite on a broader front and push for new elections on all levels by exerting a "civilized form of pressure" on the leadership. A system providing guarantees of free and fair elections in Armenia must be formed through negotiations between the opposition and the leadership–Manoukian stressed.