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article imageState Of Emergency Called In Armenia

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By KJ Mullins     Mar 1, 2008 in Politics
A state of emergency has been declared in Armenia by President Robert Kocharian Saturday night. The day was filled with clashes between rioters and police protesting that the presidential election last month was rigged.
Like Kenya before it the nation of Armenia has seen its people clashing and demonstrators taking to the streets. Unlike Kenya though the riots have not had high death rates.
Police used force to move the thousands that had settled in Freedom Square over the past 10 days according to an official at the U.S. Embassy there.
Salpi Ghazarian, assistant to the Armenian foreign minister said the authorities "moved in" because "they thought that there were arms there, and it turned out that they were right."
Although there were injuries the government has not elaborated on to extent of those or how many were involved. Witnesses to the violence though have said that gunfire has been heard. Another witness stated that two demonstrators were hit by a police car earlier. Protesters surrounded the vehicle, dragging the police out of it and then torched the car.
The state of emergency could last until March 20.
Even with the state of emergency announced though protests went on. Unrest in Yerevan is deepening as the opposition demonstrates. Opposition leader opposition leader, Nikol Pahinian told the demonstrators to brace themselves for further police attacks and boost their self defense.
"The authorities made a big mistake this morning," said opposition leader, Nikol Pashinian. "Believe me, we will make the most of that mistake."
Soon after the February 19th election protesters started demonstrating citing that the election was rigged. Opposition presidential candidate Levon Ter-Petrosian lost to Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian, a political ally of outgoing President Kocharian. The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) oversaw the election and has stated that it was mostly in line with international standards.
Ghazarian said Sunday that the government had reached out to the opposition.
"We are hoping with the help of the international community, the opposition, the leader of the opposition, will come and enter a political dialogue rather than continuing this debate on the streets," she said.
According to Haroutiun Khachatrian, editor of the Noyan Tappan News Agency several hundred of the demonstrators have been arrested.
As night falls though Yerevan is mostly quiet with fires burning outside a market. There is some sporadic looting. There are reports that police laid down their weapons and refused to fire into the crowd. Reports of two dead are slowly filtering out.
Citizens of the United States living in Yerevan have been warned to stay at home and avoid the downtown where the protests are underway.
Armenia is east of Turkey, south of Georgia and north of Iran. It was part of the Soviet Union and has a population of about 3 million.
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