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Armenia: Ter-Petrosyan Visits Parliament

By Mandiras Soghom

Yerevan, 18 February 1997 (RFE/RL) - Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrosyan made an unannounced appearance today at parliament, where a vote was to take place on the country's long-debated draft budget.

Our correspondent reports Ter-Petrosyan emphasized the importance of gradual economic improvement, stressing the need to end trade sanctions by Azerbaijan and Turkey. He said Armenia still hopes Turkey will re-open the border, and the Abkhazia railroad will resume operation, providing Armenia with an important life-line.

Ter-Petrosyan also said the ceasefire in the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute must be maintained, and Stepanakert's security ensured.

Also today, the first opposition rally after a long winter recess took place in Yerevan. Armenia's main opposition parties yesterday had called on other political groups to join forces to create a united front. The opposition refuses to recognize the legitimacy of the official results of the September 1996 presidential election, which was marred by widespread irregularities.

Meanwhile, Ter-Petrosyan today assumed temporarily the additional duties of the prime minister. Prime Minister Armen Sarkissian remains in London, recovering from surgery.