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Armenian President Downplays Predecessor's Criticism

Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian (left) and his predecessor Robert Kocharian last year
YEREVAN -- Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian has downplayed criticism by his predecessor of the government's economic policies, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Sarkisian also dismissed on April 9 growing talk of a political comeback by former President Robert Kocharian, which some Armenian observers believe could threaten his hold on power.

Following Kocharian's criticism last month of the government's handling of the economic crisis, some commentators suggested that Kocharian wants to take the post of Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian (no relation to the president), the former governor of the Central Bank.

Kocharian, who was president from 1998 to 2008, claimed on April 8 that he had still not decided whether he wants to return to politics. "If I decide to return...I will declare that openly and directly," he said in a written statement.

Serzh Sarkisian said on April 9 that Kocharian has never left the political arena.

Sarkisian also gave a mostly positive assessment of the government's response to the global economic crisis on April 9 and vowed continued support for his reformist prime minister. "I am not going to change the government or the prime minister," he said.