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Armenia: Opposition Leader Launches Presidential Campaign

Yerevan, 5 February 1998 (RFE/RL) - Leading Armenian opposition leader Vazgen Manukian today launched his campaign for the presidency. Manukian told a Yerevan news conference he will be a candidate in next month's early presidential election, and that the resignation of President Levon Ter-Petrosyan marks what Manukian called "a new epoch" of democracy for Armenia.

Manukian, a former prime minister and long-time rival of Ter-Petrosyan, said Ter-Petrosyan's policy on the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute became what Manukian called "dangerous." Manukian said Ter-Petrosyan's resignation was a logical result of the September 1996 disputed presidential election. Manukian still claims he was the rightful winner of that election.

Observers consider Manukian a top contender. It is still uncertain whether the acting president, Prime Minister Robert Kocharian, can qualify as a candidate.

Yesterday U.S. State Department spokesman James Foley said that the U.S. "has every hope" that OSCE peace talks on the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute will move forward. Foley said "every responsible official" in the region must realize that what is needed is a negotiated settlement based on compromise by all parties.