THINK-TANK IN YEREVAN: The official start to the construction of the National Institute for Strategic Researches affiliated with Armenian defense ministry was held May 31 in Yerevan, Armenpress reported. The new establishment will carry the name of Drastamat Kanayan, a prominent Armenian military leader and will be built on funds of his relatives living in the USA.
The primary goal of the institute is to provide divisions of the National Security Council, with qualified consulting, conducting of special researches and training of personnel. A total of $600,000 was raised to build the new think-tank.
MINISTER ASSURES: Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanian said that the Council of Europe is unlikely to impose embarrassing political sanctions on Armenia despite its strong criticism of government crackdown on the opposition, RFE/RL reported.
In a resolution adopted on April 28, the pan-European organization’s Parliamentary Assembly threatened not to recognize the credentials of four Armenian members in September unless the authorities stop arresting opposition supporters and release all political prisoners. “I can dare say that there is no danger of that. I don’t think that our deputies will be stripped of their voting rights,” Oskanian said.
ANTI-CORRUPTION PLAN: Armenian president Robert Kocharyan set up June 2 the Council for Struggling against Corruption, Armenpress reported. The Council is set up for full and effective implementation of the government-designed anti-corruption policy, elimination and prevention of reasons giving birth to corruption and improvement of anti-graft measures by the authorized bodies.
The new body, composed of chief minister of government staff, justice minister, an advisor to president, chief prosecutor, governor of the Central Bank, is headed by the Prime Minister.
U.S. ASSISTANCE: Senior U.S. government officials opened talks with Armenian leaders in Yerevan to discuss their expectations of additional economic assistance under Washington’s multimillion-dollar plan to promote economic and political reforms in developing countries around the world.
Armenia is among 16 nations eligible for the Millennium Challenge Account launched by President George W. Bush in 2002. The aid allocations are to be decided by the Millennium Challenge Corporation, a U.S. government agency handling the scheme. The U.S. side is prepared to allocate as much as $50 million which would be worth about a tenth of Armenia’s modest annual budget.
PEACE-PROCESS: Armenian Minister of Foreign Affairs commenting on European Union’s desire to influence Karabakh conflict settlement stated that there is no need of active external influence from the side of other organizations, Azg reported. He said that the OSCE Minsk group is controlling the conflict settlement processes, mediators are actively working and presidents and Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Armenia and Azerbaijan hold frequent meetings.
The minister refuted the information published in some newspapers according to which Nagorno Karabakh conflict can be settled only through the phase alternative. "No one stated such a thing. Today the negotiation processes are on the open agenda and it is useless to insist on any of the alternatives", he said, adding that the Minsk group made no new suggestion.
RENOVATED PRISON: Some 60 former employees of law-enforcement bodies, serving prison terms for various offences will move in July into a new correction facility, complying with international standards, Armenpress reported.
The Vardashen prison located in Yerevan outskirts is being reconstructed as part of a program of Armenian judiciary system reformation and is expected to be over in July 2004.The head of a justice ministry department supervising prison facilities, told that the Vardashen prison is going to be the first one in its kind correction facility in Armenia, meeting all international requirements. The new prison is expected to accommodate some 150 inmates.
DEBTS AND FEES: As of December 31, 2003, the external debt of Armenia made $1,097,000,000 according to Armenian Deputy Minister of Finance and Economy, AybFe reported.
About $ 875,700,000 of the debt are immediate credit instruments of Armenian Government, $ 214,600,000 is the credit instruments of Central Bank and $7,300,000 are the guarantees provided by Government. The membership fees of international organizations make 988 million Armenian drams. ($1,748)
HEALTH ISSUES: Maternal and infant mortality rates remain a matter of big concern in Armenia according to health ministry. Among the most pressing problems is the increasing rate of pre-birth mortality, widespread anemia among pregnant women and early childhood, widespread endemic deficit of iodine, continuous birth of low weight children, high abortion rates.
The average three month rates for maternal mortality for 100,000 births was 43.3 in 1999-2001 and infant mortality rate for 1000 birth was 14 in 2002. Last year, 36,700 children were born in Armenia, 540 of whom died. The great majority of Armenian mothers keep to breast feeding. Among 100 children of 1 year at least 69 receive beast feeding up to 4 months, which reduces mortality risk up to 7-10 times.