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armenialiberty: British PM Congratulates Kocharian On Inauguration

By Emil Danielyan

British Prime Minister Tony Blair congratulated President Robert Kocharian on his inauguration this week for a second term in office, but pointedly avoided any reference to his reelection, it emerged on Friday.

“I congratulate you on the occasion of your inauguration as President and look forward to strengthening further the ties between our two countries in the years ahead,” Blair said in a one-sentence message made available to RFE/RL by the British embassy in Yerevan.

The unusually brief letter was in stark contrast to congratulatory messages sent to Kocharian by other foreign leaders, notably Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Jacques Chirac. Unlike the two men, Blair made no mention of Kocharian’s victory in the recent presidential election hotly disputed by the Armenian opposition.

U.S. and European observers concluded that the two-round election held on February 19 and March 5 fell short of democratic standards because of widespread fraud. The delicate wording of Blair’s message appeared to underscore strong international criticism of official Yerevan’s handling of the vote.

The Armenian authorities have played down the criticism, arguing that no foreign government has explicitly cast doubt on the legitimacy of Kocharian’s reelection.

Kocharian’s office announced on Thursday that the Armenian leader has been congratulated by U.S. President George W. Bush, but stopped short of publicizing the latter’s written message. Excerpts from Bush’s letter released to RFE/RL by the presidential press service contained no congratulatory phrases.

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