GEORGIAN CALLING: On the invitation of Armenian President Robert Kocharyan Georgian leader Mikhail Saakashvili will arrive in Yerevan on a two-day visit beginning today (March 12).
As reported by the press service of the President of Armenia, on March 13 Kocharyan and Saakashvili will have a private conversation which will be followed by more in depth talks about Armenian-Georgian relations.
ARMENIANS IN GEORGIA : According to the returns of the population census held in Georgia in 2002, some 250,000 Armenians live in Georgia . Meanwhile, PanARMENIAN.Net reported that according to unofficial data, the number of Armenians is up to 400,000.
For the most part they live in Tbilisi , Samtskhe-Javakhetia, Tsalka and Marneuli regions, as well as in Adzharia and Abkhazia. There are 13 Armenian churches in Georgia and 154 Armenian schools, where some 28,000 pupils study.
CONDEMNING MURDER: NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer has sent a reply letter to Armenian Foreign Minister on the barbaric murder of an Armenian officer in Budapest by the Azeri officer, Arminfo news agency reported.
In his letter the Secretary General expressed his profound shock at the brutal murder of Lieutenant Gurgen Margaryan. "As you know, the appropriate Hungarian authorities are conducting a thorough investigation. I will closely follow the results of this investigation and the due legal process," the Secretary General assured.
E-PAYMENT: A new online payment system was inaugurated March 5 for holders of ArCa (Armenian Card) cards at the Armenian Central Bank, Armenpress agency reported.
The new payment system will allow holders of ArCa cards, issued by 13 Armenian commercial banks, to make a variety of transactions as to pay their utilities, charge their mobile phones and others. ArCa was established in 2000 and later joined VISA and MasterCard international payment systems. It now has 50,000 card holders.
SUBSTITUTING ARMENTEL?: The company "United Communication System Zvezda presented March 10 its business-plan on launching a cell phone service in Armenia, a first ever move to compete with ArmenTel, monopolist of Armenia's communication sector.
Arminfo agency reported that Zvezda pledged it can offer quality service for at least 1.2 million cell phone subscribers, for which they plan to invest 60 million Euros. Zvezda suggests as subscription fee $10 for the inner cell net and all the calls out of the company's net, including the international ones will cost 15 cents per minute, except for the ones going to ArmenTel network.
INTELLECTUALS VS PRESIDENT: The intellectuals of Armenia are demanding the resignation of President Robert Kocharyan, claimed the Armenian Conductor Ohan Durian during the 3rd forum of the intellectuals.
Arminfo news agency quoted Durian as saying that during Kocharyan's rule corruption developed in the country. Durian claims that authorities of the country are implementing a policy which aims to liberate Armenia from Armenia and keep only half of million of citizens in the country for "serving the oligarchs".
GYUMRI:CORRUPTED CONSTRUCTION: The distribution of thousands of new homes built in the earthquake-ravaged city of Gyumri with the multimillion-dollar assistance of a U.S.-Armenian charity was accompanied by numerous and quite serious corrupt practices, President Robert Kocharyan said.
RFE/RL reported that the process, completed late last year, has been scrutinized by an ad hoc government commission for the past three months and that its findings deserve a criminal inquiry by law-enforcement authorities. The local authorities failed to ensure the transparency of the process and have manipulated lists of families entitled to free housing. Besides some of the new buildings in Gyumri have still not been connected to public utilities.
PEST-KILLERS OUT OF CONTROL: The Armenian government has ordered creation of an inter-agency body, tasked to make a thorough investigation and registration of all expired medications and pest-killers circulated in health, agriculture and customs sectors.
A spokesman for nature protection ministry told Armenpress agency that though Armenia has undersigned Stockholm and Rotterdam conventions on destruction of steady organic waste, however the use of pest-killers remains uncontrolled, as a result pest-killers manufactured still a decade and more ago are still on sale.
SAFE COCA COLA: A senior representative of Coca-Cola Bottlers Armenia brushed aside fears that locally produced soft drink may be dangerous to public health, Armenpress agency reported. Fears appeared after reports that Coca-Cola and PepsiCo in India contain pesticides harmful to human health.
Coca-Cola Bottlers Armenia representative said the concentrates used for manufacturing Indian and Armenian drinks are different. Armenian Coca-Cola is safe for consumption," he said, adding that Coca- Cola Armenia is regularly tested by an Armenian laboratory and a centralized laboratory in Brussels .
WATER ALERT: Supplies of drinking water to many parts of Yerevan have been limited or cut off after a major reservoir was contaminated as a result of spring flooding in Armenia , RFE/RL reported
Officials say they have already taken preventive measures adding chlorine to water to stave off a disease epidemic. Some of the districts have had no running water since Sunday.
GAS PIPELINE NEEDS REPAIRS: As Georgia does not have the necessary funds, it cannot repair the gas pipeline, via which Russian gas is being supplied to Armenia , said the Director General of the Georgian Gas Transportation Company.
PanARMENIAN.Net reported citing the ITAR-TASS agency that according to the director, the technical state of the gas pipeline, built in the middle of the 60-s of the past century, is extremely unsatisfactory. Although, the gas pipeline is suitable for exploitation, it needs major repairs. The main part of the 250-kilometer gas pipeline passes through mountainous area of tectonic activity and high corrosion, which is also difficult to access and complicates repair works.
GENOCIDE ISSUES: On March 4, the Council of British District Gwynedd ( Wales , GB) approved a resolution on recognition of Armenian Genocide in Ottoman Empire in 1915 and withdrawal of Turkish economic blockade from Armenia , Arka agency reported.
Assembly of European Armenians told that petitions was represented by the leader of Scotland Party Cymru Dafydd Iwan on the request of Organization of Solidarity Wales-Armenia. The example of Armenia and Karabakh serves as inspiration for young nations as Wales and our goal is to achieve that their voice would be heard, Iwan said.