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Armenia: Foreign Ministry Spokesman Reacts Positively To U.S. Report

Yerevan, 3 March 1999 (RFE/RL) -- Armenia says it's looking with "great interest" into a mostly critical report by the US State Department on human rights.

A spokesman for the Armenian foreign ministry told RFE/RL the annual report, which also noted progress in some areas, was "overall unbiased and thorough."

The State Department said last week that despite constitutional guarantees, Armenia still had major problems in areas like free elections, mistreatment in custody and restrictions on religion.

Pointing to the March 1998 presidential election, the report said citizens' ability to change their government remains restricted.

But foreign ministry spokesman Ara Papian said the poor handling of the polls was because of the former law on elections. He said a new electoral code would contribute to free and fair elections.

Papian said Yerevan shares US concern over the treatment of detainees in Armenia. The report said detainees are routinely beaten.

The spokesman, however, called into question the report's claim that religious freedom is restricted. According to Papian, the authorities have registered all 45 operating religious organizations, except the Jehovahs witnesses.