AZERBAIJAN AGREES TO REFERENDUM IN KARABAKH IN 15 YEARS - MINISTER

Zerkalo, Azerbaijan
Dec 6 2006

A top Azerbaijani diplomat has admitted for the first time that
Azerbaijan has agreed with rival Armenia on holding a referendum in
Nagornyy Karabakh to define the breakaway region's political status.

In an interview with the Russian-language daily Zerkalo, Foreign
Minister Elmar Mammadyarov said that the Armenian-controlled region
could hold a referendum to define its final status.

"Armenians are insisting on [holding the referendum] in five years.

But we agree on holding the referendum in 15 years," Zerkalo quoted
Mammadyarov as saying.

President Ilham Aliyev and other senior government officials had always
ruled out the possibility of holding a referendum in Nagornyy Karabakh,
as this would mean the predominantly ethnic-Armenian populated
region's ultimate secession from Azerbaijan. Holding a popular vote
in a separate region is also contrary to Azerbaijan's constitution.