A week’s worth of headlines from the region

Armenian Parliament Speaker Artur Baghdasaryan refuted on September 12th the information that his visit to the United States was organized with the assistance of the U.S. National Democratic Institute. As he assured journalists the visit was sponsored by the U.S. Department of State within the framework of international visits of heads of states, parliaments and governments. Baghdasaryan noted that he held 57 meetings with the representatives of all the branches the U.S. power and public. “We discussed the current processes in Armenia and the South Caucasus. I would like to note that the U.S. closely watches the developments in Armenia”, the RA NA Speaker said.

The Central Bank of Armenia confirmed that the Dram will be put into circulation in Nagorno- Karabagh in near future. It is not ruled out that the Karabakh Dram will be recognized as official means of paying in Armenia. The number of the Karabakh drams issued made 1 million banknotes, valuing in 2 and 20 drams and coins valuing in 1 and 5 drams as well as 50 lumas. The Central Bank of Armenia via the Karabakh branches of Armenian commercial banks will launch the circulation. Meanwhile official Baku addressed a protest to the U.S. Department of State and the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (the currency was printed by an American company and the Austrian State Printing Plant). The Azeri MFA demanded the currency be conveyed to it. The U.S. State Department promised to assist, however the money remained in Karabagh.

Armenian Prime Minister Andranik Margarian left on September 12th for New York to participate in the 60-th session of the UN General Assembly. The largest gathering of world leaders in history began on September 14th with 191 U.N. member nations. Margarian is scheduled to address the General Assembly session on September 16th. On the sidelines of the visit Armenian Prime Minister is scheduled to have meetings with several UN high officials. Margarian and his wife will also participate in a reception to be given by US president George W. Bush. He will come back to Armenia on September 18th.

Police in Tehran have opened investigation into a brutal murder of a 15 year-old Armenian boy, who was killed by four ethnic Iranians on September 8th in downtown Tehran. The squabble between the Armenian boy, Miro Begijanian and Iranians erupted when he was going back home from the official opening of Armenian Sport Olympiad in Tehran, an annual event held by the local Armenian community. According to eyewitnesses, the Armenian boy returned bad language from the four Iranians, but the latter stopped their car and attacked him by batons beating him to death. The attackers were arrested by police. Armenian members of Iran's parliament visited the family of the killed boy promising that the attackers would be punished. The murder forced organizers of the Olympiad to end the games before schedule.

Russian foreign ministry warned in a statement on September 14th that arms supplies to Georgia by NATO member countries could destabilize the situation in the Southern Caucasus. The statement was prompted by a late August decision of the Czech government to grant arms to Georgia. The Russian statement said it is not the first case of arms supplies to Georgia by a NATO member country. It said arms supplies come at a time when Georgia is increasing its military spending ignoring hard social and economic conditions of the majority of the population. "This all is likely to tempt Georgia to use force against its breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia to eventually destabilize the situation not only in Georgia but in the whole of the South Caucasus," the statement says.

Armenia EXPO 2005, the fifth universal regional trade and industrial expo forum started in Yerevan on September 14th. The forum includes a number of events, these being 6 international professional exhibitions, an Armenian-Russian business meeting “Cooperation 2005”, Business Days of the U.S. and China, a contest titled “High Quality” and presentation of film “Arakel”. Over 180 local and foreign industrial and commercial organizations, companies and associations are taking part in the expo, the total area of which has extended as compared to last year. The number of foreign participants also considerably increased. Commodities from Nagorno Karabakh, Indonesia were as well exposed. According to Minister of trade and Economic Development of Armenia Karen Chshmaritian, Armenia EXPO 2005 attracts foreign investments and new partners, promotes international cooperation and market enlargement.

On September 15th Armenian President Robert Kocharyan met with US Ambassador to Armenia John Evans. In the course of the meeting the American diplomat thanked the Government and people of Armenia for assistance to victims of Katrina hurricane.

Russian Defense Minister Sergey Ivanov stated on September 14th that according to arrangement first contacts between the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), which comprises Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan, and NATO will take place. In the course of an unofficial meeting in Berlin the Russian MOD head had with his counterparts representing NATO member states Ivanov noted that before the end of the year a meeting of CSTO top officials with their NATO colleagues will be held in Brussels. “Someone might dislike the CSTO or an individual member state of the Treaty, however any action against drug trafficking from Afghanistan is impossible without CSTO member states,” Ivanov stated, adding that Russia has presented a number of proposals, including closer cooperation between NATO and CSTO member states.

Sources: www.armepress.am, www.panarmenian.net, www.regnum.ru