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Prominent Ex-Premier In Rare Meeting With Kocharian

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  • Prominent Ex-Premier In Rare Meeting With Kocharian

    By Emil Danielyan

    Radio Liberty, Czech Republic
    Jan 31 2008

    President Robert Kocharian and Armen Sarkisian, a London-based former
    prime minister of Armenia, met on Thursday for the first time since
    their high-profile falling out eight years ago.

    Kocharian's office said the head of state received Sarkisian along
    with Serge Tchuruk, the ethnic Armenian chairman of Alcatel-Lucent,
    the world's leading telecom equipment supplier. It said the three
    men discussed prospects for the development of information technology
    (IT) in Armenia.

    "Serge Tchuruk briefly presented Alcatel's activities and noted its
    desire and readiness to launch certain projects in Armenia," the
    presidential press service said in a statement. It quoted Kocharian
    as reaffirming his government's commitment to expanding the country's
    IT sector. No further details were reported.

    Sarkisian, who has developed extensive business interests in recent
    years, was Armenia's ambassador to the United Kingdom before and after
    serving as prime minister in the administration of former President
    Levon Ter-Petrosian in late 1996 and early 1997.

    The former scholar was controversially sacked by Kocharian in early
    2000 after reportedly negotiating with a powerful government faction
    that challenged the president in the months that followed the October
    1999 shootings in the Armenian parliament. The faction, led by then
    Prime Minister Aram Sarkisian (no relation to Armen) viewed the
    London-based ambassador as Kocharian's potential replacement before
    losing the bitter power struggle in May 2000.

    Armen Sarkisian, 54, has lived in the UK and avoided any contacts with
    the Armenian media since then. His meeting with Kocharian came less
    than three weeks before Armenia's crucial presidential election which
    the outgoing president hopes will formalize a handover of power to
    his longtime ally, Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian (also not related
    to Armen). Unlike Kocharian, the latter is thought to have retained
    a cordial rapport with the London-based ex-premier.

    The current and former prime ministers met, also in the presence of
    Tchuruk, later in the day. A government statement said the meeting
    focused on Alcatel-Lucent's potential operations in Armenia.

    "Chorrord Ishkhanutyun," a newspaper sympathetic to Ter-Petrosian,
    attacked Armen Sarkisian on Tuesday, calling him the "spiritual father"
    of a small pro-government party which is now actively campaigning
    for Serzh's victory in the February 19 election. The party's founding
    leader was appointed as an aide to Serzh Sarkisian last year.

    The paper also accused the ex-premier of playing a key role in
    "machinations" relating to imports of natural gas which have allegedly
    cost Armenia hundreds of millions of dollars in losses. It did not
    elaborate on the allegations, however.