8 killed in Armenia during protests over prez poll fraud

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Moscow, Mar 2 (UNI) Eight people were killed during protests in Armenian capital Yerevan over alleged presidential poll fraud.

Outgoing President Robert Kocharyan declared state of emergency yesterday after Armenian riot police used tear gas and electric sten guns in the centre of Yerevan to disperse thousands of supporters of opposition candiate Levon Ter-Petrosyan who was defeated by Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisyan in the February 19 presidential election.

The opposition said the poll was rigged in favour of Sarkisyan, a close ally of Kocharyan, who is barred constitutionally from seeking a third term in office.

Troops and armoured cars are patrolling the centre of Yerevan, Russian media outlets reported today.

''The Prosecutor General's Office is investigating the circumstances of those killed in the clashes.The number of those injured is being verified,'' RIA Novosti news agency reported quoting Armenian police.

By today morning, calm had returned to Yerevan, with the city centre under tight security. Ter-Petrosyan has said he was under house arrest but recorded an appeal for his supporters to leave the streets. International observers judged the election in the ex-Soviet Caucasus republic to be generally democratic.

The unrest has risked destabilising Armenia, a key Russian ally which lies between the energy-rich Caspian Sea and the markets of Europe.

UNI XC ARB KN1732

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