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PACE President Criticizes Armenia On Foreign-Broadcasting Bill


http://gdb.rferl.org/8994AC94-CFBB-4A2F-A4DB-CCA94724B58F_w203.jpg --> http://gdb.rferl.org/8994AC94-CFBB-4A2F-A4DB-CCA94724B58F_mw800_mh600.jpg Van der Linden speaking to RFE/RL today (RFE/RL) TBILISI, July 6, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Rene van der Linden, the president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, has criticized attempts by Armenia's parliament to place restrictions on foreign broadcast media. RFE/RL Georgian Service correspondent Nino Gelashvili spoke to the PACE president in Tbilisi, where he is meeting with Georgian officials as part of a South Caucasus tour.


Van der Linden called "unacceptable" the move by Armenian lawmakers to block foreign broadcasts.


"It is unacceptable that there is any restriction," he said. "We will have also a monitoring report on Armenia, and [the proposed restrictions] will be, without any doubt, a part of this report. And it is really important that we have an opinion on facts and figures, and that we can discuss this in the Council of Europe during the next debate on the monitoring report."


Lawmakers in Yerevan on July 3 tried but failed to pass draft legislation that would have place strict limitations on foreign broadcasters, including RFE/RL.


Van der Linden, who is on a seven-day tour -- July 4-10 -- of the South Caucasus, also said he was disappointed to see how little progress had been made by either Armenia or Azerbaijan in resolving the dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh, a predominantly ethnic-Armenian region of Azerbaijan.


"It was a disappointment that I, after two years, didn't see real progress," van der Linden said. "On the contrary, I was not optimistic, I am not optimistic after my talks in Armenia, and I will see what happens in Azerbaijan. It is necessary that they solve this problem for the whole region, for the future of the country."


Speaking ahead of his visit, van der Linden said the trip is aimed at helping to resolve the region's frozen conflicts, including Nagorno-Karabakh and Georgia's South Ossetia and Abkhazia disputes.


Van der Linden is due to travel on July 7 to South Ossetia, where tensions have been heightened following a series of mortar attacks that Russia and South Ossetian officials blamed on Georgia.


Tbilisi has denied any role in the attacks.


Azerbaijan will be the final stop on van der Linden's tour.


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