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Gukasian Declared Winner in Nagorno-Karabakh Election - 2002-08-12


Election officials in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh, located in Azerbaijan, are declaring Arkady Gukasian the winner in the region's presidential elections. But, the elections are expected to aggravate tensions between Azerbaijan and neighboring Armenia.

Almost 85 percent of the voters in Nagorno-Karabakh voted to re-elect Mr. Gukasian as president, giving him an overwhelming victory.

Mr. Gukasian easily defeated three other candidates for the post.

In a speech after the election, Mr. Gukasian insisted that the vote had been fair and democratic. He said that any international body that is against these elections is against democracy.

But while residents of Nagorno-Karabakh declared independence in 1991 and have held three presidential elections since then, the region is not recognized as an independent country. It is considered by the international community to be part of Azerbaijan.

Residents in the mostly Armenian enclave fought a bloody war for independence against Azerbaijan in the early 1990s. Almost 30,000 people died, and a million fled their homes during the fighting.

A cease-fire was declared in 1994, but there has never been a political solution. Most of the approximately 150,000 people in the region are ethnic Armenian.

The elections were criticized by Azerbaijan, Russia and the European Union, which say the vote violates Azerbaijan's territorial integrity. They also say the elections will make it harder for Armenia and Azerbaijan to negotiate an end to the conflict.

The elections raised tensions between Azerbaijan and Armenia at an awkward time. On Wednesday, the presidents of the two countries are scheduled to meet for the first time in months to discuss Nagorno-Karabakh.

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