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Sarkisian Denies Heavy Reliance On Karabakh Natives

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  • Sarkisian Denies Heavy Reliance On Karabakh Natives

    By Anna Saghabalian

    Radio Liberty, Czech Republic
    Jan 31 2008

    Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian defended himself against a common
    line of opposition attack Thursday when he assured voters that he and
    President Robert Kocharian never heavily relied on fellow natives of
    Nagorno-Karabakh throughout their decade-long rule.

    Opposition leaders have accused the country's two top leaders of
    placing Karabakh Armenians in key government positions in Yerevan and
    giving them lucrative businesses in order to hold on to power. Some
    of them have gone as far as to speak of a "Karabakh clan" governing
    the country.

    Former President Levon Ter-Petrosian picked up such allegations as
    he ended his self-imposed political retirement last fall. He has
    said in his speeches that privileged treatment allegedly enjoyed by
    Karabakh Armenians loyal to the Sarkisian-Kocharian duo is driving
    a wedge between the populations of Karabakh and Armenia proper.

    Sarkisian laughed off such allegations as he campaigned in Yerevan's
    Ajapnyak district. "Wherever I worked, I didn't pick people on the
    basis of their place of residence," he told a campaign rally there.

    "I picked people by taking into account their knowledge and human

    Sarkisian argued that none of his ministers was born in Karabakh and
    that only one major government agency, the State Tax Service (STS),
    is headed by a Karabakh Armenian. "I think that on the contrary,
    Karabakhis have the right to rebuke me, and they do," he said. "But
    they are wrong too because it is shameful to talk about these
    circumstances in the 21st century."

    Ter-Petrosian was not the only opposition presidential candidate
    attacked by Sarkisian on Thursday. The prime minister clearly referred
    to former parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian in his speech at
    a campaign rally in another Yerevan district, Davitashen, in which
    denounced an unnamed "young candidate" promising to sharply raise
    pensions and cut taxes.

    "They are not ashamed of looking TV viewers in the eyes and saying
    that they will raise pensions and return all [Soviet-era] bank savings
    and at the same time cut taxes," Sarkisian told several hundred local
    residents. "I don't know who they will do such a magic."