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NATO Chief Deeply Concerned Over Azeri Ax Murderer’s Pardon

Sept. 6 (Bloomberg) -- NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he was “deeply concerned” by Azerbaijan’s pardon and promotion of a convicted murderer who killed an Armenian army officer with an ax.

Ramil Safarov, who was serving a life sentence for slaying Gurgen Margaryan in his sleep in Budapest eight years ago, was pardoned by Azeri President Ilham Aliyev and promoted after Hungary transferred him home Aug. 31.

“The act he committed in 2004 was a terrible crime and should not be glorified,” Rasmussen said today in the Armenian capital, Yerevan. “The pardon damages trust and doesn’t contribute to the peace process.”

Energy-exporter Azerbaijan fought Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave after the 1991 Soviet breakup, leaving tens of thousands dead and more than 1 million displaced. While hostilities ended with a Russia-brokered cease-fire accord in 1994, the sides have yet to sign a peace agreement.

Rasmussen said there must be no return to armed conflict.

“Tensions must be reduced and concrete steps must be taken to promote regional cooperation and reconciliation,” he said.

During a visit to Georgia’s capital, Tbilisi, U.S. Senator John McCain called on Russia to help prevent renewed conflict in the region.

“The situation is very tense,” he said today. “If there’s a conflict, it will spill over into surrounding countries and it’s very serious. One country that can play a very constructive role in preventing this conflict is Russia and I hope that Russia will play this role.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Zulfugar Agayev in Baku at zagayev@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Hellmuth Tromm at htromm@bloomberg.net

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