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Sarkisian Calls For 'National Accord' Government Excluding 'Terrorists'

Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian offers "national accord" government excluding "terrorists" after standoff with opposition gunmen.

Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian promised to form a government of "national accord" within months, but vowed it would not include "terrorists and their defenders," in an apparent reference to an armed opposition group that surrendered after a two-week standoff with Yerevan police.

Over 1,000 people took to the streets of Yerevan on August 1 to call for leniency for the 20 gunmen, who were arrested this weekend after ending their occupation of a police compound in a confrontation that left two policemen dead.

While pledging to form a new, more harmonious government, Sarkisian vowed to keep "terrorists and their defenders" out of it -- words police had used in arresting the gunmen, who had demanded Sarkisian's resignation.

Sarkisian said after meeting with civil society representatives, religious leaders, and government officials, that the gunmen "hid their emphatically terrorist actions...under the guise of patriotic calls for social justice."

Interfax reported that two opposition Heritage party officials who had worked with the gunmen were arrested on August 1 and charged with organizing and participating in mass disturbances: party spokesman David Sanasarian and deputy chairman Armen Martirosian.

Sarkisian vowed that the country would not allow anyone to "undermine the foundation of our state."

"Problems in Armenia will not be solved through violence or arms," he said. "Yerevan is neither Beirut nor Aleppo."

Sarkisian said he has ordered a "thorough investigation, a comprehensive and unbiased examination and an open trial" over the incident.

Human Rights Watch on August 1 accused the Armenian police of using "excessive force against peaceful protesters" and said they had "assaulted journalists reporting on the demonstrations" on July 29.

RFE/RL’s Armenian Service said three of its correspondents reporting on the protest were beaten with batons apparently by plainclothes policemen.

Giorgi Gogia, South Caucasus director at the human rights group, told AFP that Armenia's investigation into the assaults on demonstrators "should be swift and thorough."

In light of the standoff, Sarkisian said, "One thing is clear, the process of the radical changes in Armenia's social and political life" must be sped up.

"Yes, it is true that the Armenian authorities are not perfect. Yes, it is true that there are many problems and complex issues in Armenia. Our goal is to give them a speedy resolution."

With reporting by AP, AFP, TASS, and Interfax
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