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2 Mar, 2008 06:33

Armenia declares state of emergency after violence

According to Armenia’s police, eight people have died and dozens others have been injured following violence in the capital Yerevan. A state of emergency has been declared in Armenia's capital by the country's president Robert Kocharyan. The decision has

Tracer bullets and roaring crowds shook central Yerevan as the opposition rally turned into a violent stand off with the police.

It was the 11th day of a mass rally protesting the result of the recent presidential election, which demonstrators believe was rigged.

With clashes having turned violent, President Robert Kocharyan declared a 20-day state of emergency in the city.

“The protesters crossed a line of what’s acceptable.  Shots are already being fired at policemen.  Already today eight policemen have been injured, with a colonel and a regiment commander seriously wounded.  I decided to call a state of emergency, and resorted to bringing in the army only after I found out about the use of firearms by the demonstrators and the injuries among the police,” he said.

The supporters of the former president Levon Ter-Petrosyan, the opposition leader who lost the election, were enraged when he was put under home arrest, accused of planning a coup early on Saturday.

They say the vote won by Serzh Sarkisyan, a close ally of the outgoing leader, was fixed and they want a re-run of the ballot.  

Although international observers said the elections were fair, an Armenian political analyst says the OSCE didn't confirm all international standards were met.

“What they said was that the election mainly complied with their standards,” Aghasi Enokyan said.

The majority of demonstrators left the central square after a message was read out from Levon Ter-Petrosyan urging them to go home.

However, the peace on the streets looks unlikely to last.