Armenian defense minister may run for president in 2008

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YEREVAN, October 31 (RIA Novosti, Gamlet Metevosyan) - Armenian Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisyan, who is in the United States on an official visit, has not ruled out a bid for president in 2008, his press secretary said Monday.

"I am very glad that there are people in Armenia who believe that it is possible for me to run for president, but it is premature to speak about that two and a half years before the presidential elections, which will also be preceded by a parliamentary poll," Sarkisyan said. "My decision will depend on the success of the political force that I support in the parliamentary elections."

Speaking about the problem of Nagorno-Karabakh, Sarkisyan said that Armenia was determined to solve the conflict peacefully.

If the same approach prevails in Azerbaijan, we will be able to discuss all issues, including the security zone. "I urge Azerbaijanis to exclude the resumption of combat operations because it will cause huge damage to Armenia and Azerbaijan, irrespective of the outcome," the defense minister said.

Situated in southwestern Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh is a highly mountainous area predominantly populated by ethnic Armenians. The Armenian-Azerbaijani ethnic conflict intensified in the late 1980s during the final years of the U.S.S.R.

A 1994 ceasefire ended a six-year war, leaving Nagorno-Karabakh in Armenian hands, but tensions between Azerbaijan and Armenia have persisted.

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