Avet Demourian reports for AP
: Armenia - Parliament voted Friday to send 46 non-combat troops to Iraq,
a move that was backed by President Robert Kocharian but drew sharp criticism from many Armenians and opposition groups.
After more than seven hours of debate behind closed doors, lawmakers in the National Assembly voted 91-23, with one abstention, to send the contingent, which will include bomb-disposal experts, doctors and transport specialists.
But the proposal had been widely criticized by opposition parties, many Armenians and even the 30,000-strong Armenian community in Iraq, which feared being targeted for attacks if the troops were sent.
"We shouldn't even be sending humanitarian troops to Iraq, because we can't jeopardize the security of Armenians living Iraq, said Viktor Dalakyan, a leader with the opposition party Justice. "Moreover their lives are already being threatened." Link
Armenia is a member of NATO's Partnership for Peace
According to The US State Department
"The Government of Armenia's human rights record remained poor in 2003....International observers found both the presidential and parliamentary elections during the year to be well below international standards......opposition supporters were detained between the two rounds of the presidential elections.....reports of arbitrary arrest and detention.....lengthy pretrial detention....limits on press freedom....due in part to self-censorship and denial of two television broadcast licenses....limits on the rights of assembly and association...denied permission for several opposition rallies... detained approximately 200 people for participating in unauthorized demonstrations....The law places some restrictions on religious freedom. Societal violence against women was a problem. Trafficking of women and children was a problem, which the government took some steps to address."
"Approximately 70 U.S.-owned firms currently do business in Armenia, including such multinationals as Procter & Gamble, M&M-Mars, Xerox, Dell, and IBM. Recent major U.S. investment projects include the Hotel Armenia; the Hotel Ani Plaza; Tufenkian Holdings (carpet and furnishing production, hotels, and construction); several subsidiaries of U.S.-based information technology firms, including Viasphere Technopark, an IT incubator; a Greek-owned Coca-Cola bottling plant; petroleum exploration by the American-Armenian Exploration Company; jewelry and textile production facilities; a large perlite mining and processing plant; and Jermuk Mother Plant, which produces one of the more popular brands of mineral water in Armenia."
The State Department goes on to detail some areas of US support:
"U.S. Support To Build A Market Economy"
"U.S. Humanitarian Assistance"
"U.S. Support To Achieve Democracy"
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