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nytimes: Armenians Protest Near Presidential Palace

YEREVAN, Armenia (AP) — Police broke up a protest of some 2,000 people outside Armenia’s presidential palace on Tuesday, the latest in a series of demonstrations over last year’s presidential election.

Opposition leaders vowed to keep up their public protests against President Robert Kocharian, whose re-election a year ago spurred opposition charges of widespread ballot violations.

“The fight against the unlawful regime will be kept up,” said an opposition leader, Vazgen Manoukian.

Organizers said several demonstrators were injured, but their condition was not known.

In Washington, the State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the United States is concerned about the sharp escalation in the confrontation between the government and the opposition.

“We call on both sides to enter into a dialogue that will lessen tension and focus the political process on the challenges of continued political and economic reform,” Boucher said.

He said physical assaults, raids on political party offices and widespread arrests and detentions of opposition activists by the police “do not contribute to creating an atmosphere conducive to political dialogue.” Boucher added.

Kocharian considers the protests “an act of political extremism,” according to his spokesman Ashot Kocharian.

Last April, Armenia’s Constitutional Court confirmed the results of the presidential vote but suggested that a referendum be held within a year to gauge the public’s confidence.

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