YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Armenian President Robert Kocharian Wednesday named the younger brother of the slain Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsyan as new premier in a decree agreed with the biggest faction in parliament.
The 38-year-old Aram Sargsyan took over the Armenian government exactly one week after his brother and seven other officials were gunned down in a bloody attack on parliament unleashed by five gunmen. Parliament speaker Karen Demirchian was also among the victims.
Aram Sargsyan was nominated for the top post earlier in the day by the ruling Unity bloc–which was co-headed by Vazgen Sargsyan and Demirchian. The bloc controls the current Armenian parliament and key ministerial posts in the government.
The decision to back the assassinated premier’s brother was made at a meeting of the Unity faction in parliament. Kocharian said earlier that the new premier and his cabinet must enjoy the support of the parliament majority.
A construction engineer by training–Aram Sargsyan ran a state-owned cement factory in the city of Ararat 40 kilometers southeast of the capital Yerevan until the appointment.
He has not been involved in active politics before–despite membership in the bloc.
Andranik Markarian–a leading figure in the bloc–told RFE/RL that the new premier will continue his predecessor’s policy. He said there will be no changes in Armenia’s policy on the unresolved Nagorno-Karabakh conflict or economic reforms agreed with Western lending institutions. A similar pledge was made by the new speaker and two vice-speakers of parliament elected on Tuesday.
Markarian declined to reveal who first proposed Sargsyan’s candidacy for premiership.
"It’s hard to say who proposed first–but when that idea emerged we concentrated on discussing it," he said. The second-biggest Stability faction also endorsed him. "Underlying our confidence was one thing: Armen Sargsyan is the brother of Vazgen Sargsyan," said Stability leader Hovannes Hovannisian.
The new premier met with deputies representing the two allied factions shortly before Kocharian’s decree was signed. One of the participants quoted Sargsyan as saying that he "will not be revengeful" when dealing with the aftermath of the parliament tragedy.
According to deputy speaker of parliament–Gagik Aslanian–Sargsyan was selected by the parliament majority from a pool of four candidates–including Yerevan mayor Albert Bazeyan–the minister for industrial infrastructures–Vahan Shirkhanian–and the minister for state revenues–Smbat Ayvazian. Under the Armenian constitution–the prime minister is appointed by the head of state but can be removed from office by parliament.
Officials said Prime Minister Aram Sargsyan will form his cabinet within a week. The majority of cabinet members are expected to remain in their posts. However–the interior and national security ministries may be headed by new figures.
The acting ministers of interior and national security have already tendered their resignations under pressure from the military who hold them responsible for allowing the well armed gunmen access to the parliament building.
"We are not constraining the prime minister. That is–we will not decide on the list of ministers," Unity’s Markarian said.
Armenian press reports have said the defense ministry and Kocharian were at odds over who should get the security portfolios. But vice-speaker Aslanian insisted that the defense ministry will have no role in key appointmen’s.
In another development–a spokeswoman for the Armenian president told RFE/RL that Kocharian will on Friday meet with Russian President Boris Yeltsin in Moscow.
Sargsyan recently worked as Executive Director of the "Ararat-cement" state-run company.
Sargsyan was born on January 2–1961 in the village of Ararat in the Ararat region–where he graduated from a local secondary school.
In 1981 he graduated from the sculpture department of Yerevan Arts School N 8.
In 1981-83 he served in the Soviet Army.
In 1989 he graduated from the architectural-construction department of the Yerevan Polytechnic Institute–receiving the qualification of constructor-engineer.
Sargsyan started his career at the AraratStroyTrust factory where he held different positions.
In 1993–Sargsyan went to work in the "AraratCement" plant first as assistant director general and then as deputy director general for capital construction.
Since 1998–he has been executive director of the "AraratCement" state-run company.
Aram Sargsyan is a member of the Republican Party of Armenia and the "Yerkrapah" Union of Volunteers.
He is married–with three children.
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