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Wednesday, October 27, 1999 Published at 21:08 GMT

World: Europe

Vazgen Sarkisian - an Armenian nationalist

Mr Sarkisian had been drawing up plans to reform the economy

Prime Minister Vazgen Sarkisian, one of Armenia's most fervent nationalists, had only been in office since June.

His career was founded on a no-compromise fight for the Armenian nation and its satellite, the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Before becoming prime minister, he had gained a sharp profile as a defence expert. For almost 10 years, he served in the posts of chairman of the parliamentary defence committee, state minister for defence, and defence minister.

When Armenia became independent after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, he was very influential in creating the Armenian army.

Independence fighter

Vazgen Sarkisian was born in 1959 in the village of Ararat, on the border with Turkey.

He was a qualified sports trainer and taught physical education until 1983, when he started his political career as a Soviet official.

Five years later, he joined Armenia's nationalist movement aiming for independence of the ethnic Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh from the neighbouring Soviet republic of Azerbaijan.

The enclave declared independence the same year.

Military hero

Between 1990 and 1992, Mr Sarkisian was commander of the Nagorno-Karabakh volunteers, gaining a reputation as a military leader. It was this reputation that helped him to rise to the office of defence minister.

He was serving in this capacity when President Robert Kocharian appointed him as prime minister.

Mr Sarkisian and his Unity Party had just won the parliamentary elections by a huge majority, and the president apparently hoped that Mr Sarkisian's popularity could help healing the rift between the country's executive and legislative branch and turn the economy round.

Prime Minister Sarkisian was due to present a three-year economic reform plan to parliament in the coming weeks.

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