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    Armenian lobbyists blast disparity in U.S. military aid

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    YEREVAN, February 6 (RIA Novosti) - A prominent Armenian lobbyist organization sharply criticized Tuesday the disparity in U.S. military aid to Armenia and Azerbaijan proposed in a draft 2008 budget.

    The White House is planning to allocate $3 million in military aid to Armenia, while Azerbaijan is expected to receive $4.3 million, despite a 2001 agreement between the U.S. Congress and the Bush administration calling for parity in the allocation of military aid to both countries.

    Aram Hamparian, executive director of the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA), said the draft also proposes to reduce overall financial aid to Armenia in 2008 almost by half, year-on-year, to $35 million, and does not stipulate additional aid to Nagorno-Karabakh.

    The conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, a region in Azerbaijan with a largely Armenian population, first erupted in 1988 when it declared its independence from Azerbaijan and moved to join Armenia.

    Over 30,000 people were killed on both sides between 1988 and 1994, and over 100 died following a 1994 ceasefire. Nagorno-Karabakh remained in Armenian hands, but tensions between Azerbaijan and Armenia have persisted. Azerbaijan is determined to restore its control over the separatist region.

    ANCA has stated on numerous occasions that "a tilt in military spending toward Azerbaijan would destabilize the region, emboldening the Azerbaijani leadership to continue its threats to impose a military solution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict."

    Hamparian said the House of Representatives and the Congress will review the proposed draft and present their own views on international financial aid. He expressed the hope that U.S. lawmakers will help restore parity in aid allocation [for Armenia and Azerbaijan] and increase the amount of aid to Nagorno-Karabakh.

    ANCA is one of the largest and most influential Armenian lobbying organizations abroad. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters and supporters throughout the United States and affiliated organizations around the world, the ANCA actively advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues.

    The total Armenian population living worldwide was estimated to be 9 million in 2004, but only about 3 million live in Armenia and about 130,000 in Nagorno-Karabakh.

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