Thursday, March 06, 2008

The Guardian: Prescott heads for Armenia

Peacemaker Prescott heads for Armenia

* Martin Hodgson
* The Guardian,
* Thursday March 6 2008

About this article
This article appeared in the Guardian on Thursday March 06 2008 on p7 of the UK news section. It was last updated at 00:07 on March 06 2008.

With a reputation for plain speaking, and the occasional hot-tempered outburst, John Prescott is perhaps not the first person you would choose to lead a delicate diplomatic mission.

But the former deputy prime minister is to head a European human rights delegation to Armenia, to help defuse a growing political crisis triggered by allegations of electoral fraud.

Prescott will arrive in the Armenian capital, Yerevan, tomorrow for a two-day visit requested by the president of the Council of Europe's parliamentary assembly. He joined the assembly last October as leader of the UK contingent of 18 Westminster MPs. The former deputy Labour leader led a team of officials monitoring the disputed presidential elections in Armenia on February 19.

The Council of Europe said it had arranged the "snap visit" following the declaration of a state of emergency after clashes between Armenian troops and protesters this weekend left eight dead and more than 100 injured.

"John Prescott will assess the post-electoral situation and explore possibilities for defusing the current political crisis and promoting dialogue," a statement from the Council of Europe said.

Violence flared after riot police raided a protest camp erected by opposition supporters intent on recreating Ukraine's Orange revolution of 2004.

Prescott is due to meet the Armenian political leadership and Levon Ter-Petrosian, the defeated opposition challenger, who was placed under house arrest.

Yesterday the European commission called on the Armenian government to lift the state of emergency declared on March 1.

* © Guardian News and Media Limited 2008

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