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Armenian President Rules Out Repeat Elections

Election protests in Yerevan on March 1. Nine people died in the violence.
YEREVAN -- Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian has ruled out repeat elections, a key demand of political opponents who say authorities rigged the last presidential vote.

Opposition parties have vowed to hold protests in the capital next month to demand Sarkisian's resignation and new elections. The Armenian president said opposition should be constructive and that meetings should not breach the law.

Critics accuse authorities -- including an ally of former President Robert Kocharian -- of rigging the Feb. 19 election to give Sarkisian victory, a charge officials deny.

"If the demands of these people are exclusively about one thing -- holding new elections -- then what can we have a dialogue about?" Sarkisian told reporters at a news conference. "I am tired of elections because we have had elections for two years. The next elections will take place as planned in 2012."

Sarkisian's main challenger, former President Levon Ter-Petrosian, was placed under house arrest after the vote.

Violent clashes followed on March 1 in which nine people died.

Armenia, an ancient Christian nation of 3.2 million, lies in a Caucasus mountains region now emerging as a key route for pumping Caspian Sea oil and gas to world markets, although the nation has no pipelines of its own.

Nine people died in fighting on March 1 between protesters armed with iron railings and soldiers wielding batons and firing rubber bullets. Seven protesters died and two members of the security forces.