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Armenian Opposition Leader: 'Serzh, Please Open The Toilets'


Supporters of the Armenian National Congress opposition coalition camped out in Yerevan's Liberty Square.
Supporters of the Armenian National Congress opposition coalition camped out in Yerevan's Liberty Square.
YEREVAN -- Armenia's opposition leader has called on the president to reopen public toilets in central Yerevan, which were closed in what the opposition says is an apparent bid to hinder its protests, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Levon Ter-Petrossian was speaking to thousands of supporters demonstrating in Yerevan's Liberty Square for the fifth consecutive day on October 4.

Ter-Petrossian's Armenian National Congress (HAK) launched the nonstop street protests on September 30 to demand early elections and other government concessions.

Referring to the mysterious closure of public toilets near Liberty Square, which coincided with the start of the HAK rally, Ter-Petrossian addressed President Serzh Sarkisian.

"Serzh, please open the toilets," he said, sparking laughter and rapturous applause from the crowd. "Serzh, prove to these people that there is one problem that you can solve."

The opposition said it will step up its round-the-clock protests.

Levon Zurabian, the second-ranking figure in the HAK, told demonstators on October 4 that "starting from today, we will intensify our struggle."

A separate statement issued by the HAK also spoke of a greater "mobilization of the people" and described as "pointless" any renewed dialogue with Sarkisian and his three-party ruling coalition.

The talks between the HAK and the government began in July but were suspended by the opposition bloc in late August to protest the controversial arrest of one of its activists.

Members of a ruling coalition team that negotiated with HAK representatives this summer effectively rejected Ter-Petrossian's proposal late on October 3. In a joint statement, they said the dialogue could resume only after the end of the "illegal" demonstrations.

The HAK rejected this precondition. "At this juncture, the Armenian National Congress considers any dialogue with such authorities pointless and sees the achievement of our objectives only in the mobilization of the people and the intensification of our mass actions," said a statement read by Zurabian.

The statement also said that the dialogue could resume if the authorities "appeal to us with a corresponding request." "We would discuss that appeal and decide whether or not to grant that request," it added.

Neither the statement nor Zurabian and other opposition figures specified what further actions the HAK will take to heighten the pressure on the Sarkisian government.

News reports say that transportation links between Yerevan and the rest of the country have been severely restricted in recent days. The HAK says the authorities are thus trying to keep more people from joining the protests.

The HAK has for months insisted on the holding of fresh presidential and parliamentary elections, saying only they can end lingering political tensions in Armenia.