Sofia, September 13 - "The performance of national military divisions in the Cooperative Nugget'95 military exercise was not only a matter of national dignity, but also of readiness for cooperation with NATO and this is the deep political meaning of all exercises held within the Partnership for Peace initiative," President Zhelyu Zhelev today said in an address to the Bulgarian soldiers that took part in the Cooperative Nugget'95 military exercise held in Louisiana, US, in August.
"In Louisiana you showed that the Bulgarian army works hard and systematically and convinced the observers that our country could be a reliable combat partner for the most state-of- the-art NATO armies," Dr. Zhelev stressed. He went on to say this conclusion is justified by the high assessments for Bulgaria's performance in the exercise by US officers, that are believed to be more than merely a product of diplomacy. In his address Dr. Zhelev thanked the soldiers for the high professionalism they have shown.
Participating in the exercise that gathered 3,000 soldiers of different countries were 40 Bulgarian servicemen and 10 observing officers. Today they were invited to an official dinner given by President Zhelev.
Sofia, September 13 - Bulgarian President Zhelyu Zhelev today received US Ambassador William Montgomery at the latter's request.
Montgomery briefed Zhelev on the US peace plan for Yugoslavia and the forthcoming European tour of US envoy Richard Holbrooke. Montgomery also expressed his government's view US archaeologist Bailey was not involved in espionage against Bulgaria, the President's Press Office said.
Zhelev thanked Montgomery for the information about the peace plan and made a commitment to discuss the Bailey case with Interior Minister Lyubomir Nachev and Prosecutor General Ivan Tatarchev, to clarify the case and avert obstructing Bulgarian-US relations.
Sofia, September 13 - Bulgarian Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski is not scheduled to visit Skopje, Foreign Ministry spokesman Radko Vlaikov said today, refuting an announcement of the Balkan News Agency.
From September 17 to 19 Foreign Minister Pirinski will pay an official visit to Slovakia. From September 25 to October 2 he will attend the session of the UN General Assembly in New York marking the 50th anniversary of this world organization.
On October 6 and 7 Pirinski will attend the meeting of the foreign ministers of the countries of the Central European Initiative in Warsaw.
Sofia, September 13 - Western European Union Secretary General Jose Cutileiro is arriving on a two-day official visit to Bulgaria, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Radko Valaikov told a briefing here today. During the visit the sides will exchange views on all issues pertaining to the building of European security architecture and WEU's place in this process, specific questions of Bulgarian-WEU cooperation, participation in the different working groups, and the situation in the region, the chief of the Foreign Ministry International Organizations Department, Georgi Dimitrov, told journalists.
Mr. Cutileiro's agenda includes talks with Bulgarian President Zhelyu Zhelev, Prime Minister Zhan Videnov, Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski, Defense Minister Dimiter Pavlov and the parliamentary committees of foreign policy and national security.
The upcoming visit is a follow-up of the Bulgarian-WEU dialogue, said the foreign Ministry Spokesman recalling that last spring this country was visited by the then WEU secretary general Willem van Eekelen.
Georgi Dimitrov outlined the implications of the visit for Bulgaria's integration into the European structures. "For us European integration does not only mean EU, but all economic, political, military and cultural European and Euro-Atlantic structures," Dimitrov said. He recalled the recent visits to Sofia by Spanish Prime Minster Felipe Gonzalez and Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev, stressing that what the two visits had in common was a focus on the building of European security architecture and the role in this process of different European structures and institutions and separate countries.
The official contacts between Bulgaria and the WEU started in 1991. Within the framework of bilateral political dialogue the sides are cooperating in the implementation of the UN sanctions against rump Yugoslavia along the Danube. In May 1994 Bulgaria was granted an associate WEU member status that took effect in March 1995 after this country met the requirement to ratify certain European agreements. Bulgaria is also participating actively in the initiative launched in early 1995 on the new conditions of European security. At the sitting of the Council of Ministers in Lisbon last May the Bulgarian delegation voiced the readiness of this country to consider its participation in WEU humanitarian and peace- keeping missions. Bulgarian Prime Minister Zhan Videnov was invited to address the December 1995 session of the WEU Assembly.
As an associate WEU member, Bulgaria is one of the countries helping the WEU actively in the enforcement of UN sanctions against Serbia-Montenegro through participation in police and customs operations, the WEU press office said from Brussels today in a release on the upcoming visit here by Jose Cutileiro.
Bulgaria would appreciate apologies which would put an end to the 13-year insinuations about a Bulgarian connection in the attempt on the life of Pope John Paul II but so far there has been no official information about Agca's intentions to apologize to Bulgaria, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Radko Vlaikov said at a briefing today.
Vlaikov specified that until late last night no one had contacted the Bulgarian Embassy in Rome. He said that the Bulgarian side had always been convinced in the groundlessness of these accusations and every Bulgarian would appreciate an apology.
Agca, who shot and wounded Pope John Paul II in May 1981, directed the investigation and the trial to an alleged complicity of two Bulgarians in the attempt. According to recent reports in the Western press, Agca has stated officially that he had fabricated Bulgaria's complicity in the attempt. "For 13 years this made it possible for many to denigrate the name of Bulgaria," the Foreign Ministry spokesman said.
This was part of the statement Foreign Ministry Spokesman Radko Vlaikov told journalists who asked him to comment on press reports alleging that US archaeologist Douglas Bailey was a spy.
Vlaikov stressed that the decision to expel Bailey from Bulgaria without holding him criminally liable, was taken in a desire to prevent any possible complications that might mar Bulgarian-US relations. "This is an isolated case and our understanding is that it should in no way affect bilateral relations," said the Foreign Ministry Spokesman.
On September 5 the Bulgarian Interior Ministry announced that on August 24 US citizen Douglas Bailey had been expelled from this country for "activities violating the laws of the Republic of Bulgaria".
The September 5 press release of the Interior Ministry said that Bailey was expelled from this country because as a head of an archaeological expedition he committed repeated customs violations and illegal actions consisting in geographical and magnetic measurements that constituted a threat to Bulgaria's interests and security.
Reporting the case newspapers said in front-page stories that Bailey was a spy.
The Sofia-based US Embassy rejected all accusations for Bailey's involvement in espionage, saying that the press allegations remind of Bulgaria's past.
Interviewed by the private Radio Darik last Monday, Bailey himself said he was not aware in what way he had threatened Bulgaria's national security, because he was given no official indictment. He denied to have been involved in espionage.
Sofia, September 13 - At a briefing today, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Radko Vlaikov expressed concern that no progress has been made in the search for security guarantees in and around Sarajevo. He reiterated that Bulgaria accepts the NATO air strikes on Bosnian Serbs as an extreme measure hoping they will not be directed to civilian population, and will contribute to the peace process in former Yugoslavia.
Vlaikov expressed a fear that unmeasured strikes exceeding the original mandate may obstruct the peace process. He voiced concern about reports Albania may assist the air strikes, thus engaging, although indirectly, in the Yugowar.
Vlaikov expressed alarm about announcements Turkey may take a more active role in the peacemaking efforts.
Vlaikov recalled Bulgaria will categorically decline any participation in operations, including UN missions, in Bosnia. Bulgaria believes neighboring countries can help achieve a peaceful settlement only by refraining from any intervention, the Spokesman said.
Sofia, September 13 - Journalists of the state-owned television, radio and the Bulgarian News Agency (BTA), and their local centers could express their opinion on parties, coalitions and individual candidates running in the October 29 local elections.
The Constitutional Court (CC) today unanimously ruled as non-constitutional a provision of the Local Elections Law passed last July, envisaging that "in the run-up to elections journalists and anchormen of the National TV, National Radio and the BTA, and their regional centers are not allowed to express opinion on to parties, coalitions and separate candidates running in the local elections."
According to the CC judges this provision encroaches on citizens' right to information and violates a number of constitutional norms and international accords to which Bulgaria is party.
The restrictions for journalists during election campaigns were vehemently attacked by President Zhelyu Zhelev and MPs of the major opposition formation in Bulgaria, the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF), were asked the CC to rule on the constitutionality of the law provisions.
Dr. Zhelev and the MPs of the UDF challenged the constitutionality of more provisions in the law but the CC rejected the challenges.
CC judges approved a text introducing a requirement for mayoral and municipal counselor candidates not to have dual citizenship. One CC judge had dissenting opinion.
Seven of the eleven members of the CC panel backed a decision to rule as constitutional a provision envisaging that servicemen have the right to off-base voting only where they have resident registration and if they are on that place on the election day. According to the opposition, this text infringes on the electoral rights of servicemen who will not get a home leave on the election day.
Sofia, September 13 - The first night of the Bulgarian-US co-production "Bird of Prey" was held here today. Bulgarian Boyan Miloushev is producer, script-writer and performer of the leading part. Co-starring are Hollywood stars some of whom arrived to Bulgaria for the premiere. These are Oscar nominee for Woody Allen's "Bullets over Broadway" Jennifer Tilly, Robert Saradine, Leslie Ann Warren, Oscar nominee for her part in "Victor/Victoria" and others. Richard Chamberlain, who is now shooting the sequel to "Thornbirds" in Australia, may arrive later.
"Bird of Prey" was directed by Venezuelan-born Themistuklis Lopez, a European graduate whose films have won awards in Oberhausen, Locarno and Pescara. The crew also included Geoffrey Hornaday, the choreographer of "Flashdance" who started his carrier as assistant to Bob Foss, and Fassbinder's longstanding continuity editor Ila von Hasperg.
"Bird of Prey" was shown to full houses at the Love is Folly film festival in Varna and at the Apollonia Days of Art in Sozopol. The film got favorable reviews at the Montreal festival. Critics of "Hollywood Reporter" and "Variety" praised the performance of Boyan Miloushev.
The Image company will circulate "Bird of Prey" across the world. The film has already been sold to 62 countries. Two Sofia cinemas will start showing it on September 15.
The ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party and its coalition partners (Agrarians and Greens) are leading in polls on the eve of October 29 local elections. Polls indicate they will win in 75% of municipalities, according to the national Center for Public Opinion Research. The centers boss Assen Yossifov told the media the largest opposition force, the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) leads polls in big cities (Sofia, Plovdiv, Varna).
BSP leader Zhan Videnov, Prime Minister, and BSP deputy leader Doncho Konakchiev, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Territorial Development and Construction, today met with BSP mayors. According to Konakchiev, 60% of present Socialist mayors will run for another term. Videnov gave a positive estimate of the mayors' work.
The reformist Alliance for Social Democracy in the BSP supports the nonpartisan candidacy of Ventsislav Yossifov, chief of First Private Bank, for mayor of Sofia, its leader Chavdar Kyuranov told the media. Yossifov today donated children's books and videos to the Ministry of Education.
The BSP has not yet named a mayoral candidate in Sofia. According to the Socialist "Douma", two ideas are in circulation: to support an independent, or a Socialist, candidate. A private radio today quoted an informed source as saying the party will back an independent member of the BSP-led coalition.
The extraparliamentary Democratic Party of Justice (of ethnic Turks) will join forces with leftist formations at the local elections, its leader Ali Ibrahimov told journalists. He counts on polling 90,000 votes. The party gained 30,000 votes at the parliamentary elections in 1994.
The Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria (CITUB) will insist on correcting the mechanism for income protection in the state-financed sphere. The present mechanism will help the state economize 3,500 million leva by the end of this year (1 US dollar currently exchanges for 68 leva), CITUB deputy leader Ivan Neikov told journalists today.
Customs officers at the Danube Bridge (Rousse-Giurgiu) border checkpoint between Bulgaria and Romania have caught 45 stolen automobiles since the beginning of the year, said Todor Kopankov, chief of the customs house in Rousse. Twenty-three cars were caught in the attempt of being exported from Bulgaria and 22 in the attempt of being imported. Most of the cars were Ladas. Two trucks and one Ikarus bus were caught with forged export documents.
The number of caught stolen cars is 25% up from last year thanks to cooperation established with the police which provides the customs authorities with information on stolen cars, the BTA correspondent in Rousse said.
The National Electricity Company announced that a shipment of nuclear fuel for the Bulgarian Kozlodoui N-plant is waiting for a sanction to transit Ukraine. The announcement was prompted by recent reports in the press of problems with nuclear fuel deliveries.
282 tons of sunflower seed oil of the state contingency reserve have been distributed by the Central Cooperative Union since the beginning of this week.
The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Trade and Foreign Economic Cooperation Kiril Tsochev today received the newly-appointed Turkish Ambassador here Mehmed Ali Irtencelik. The two discussed preparations for Tsochev's visit to Turkey in early October.
Deputy Prime Minister Tsochev today met with Iranian Ambassador Mohammed Ali Kormi Nouri. The talks focused on bilateral trade and preparations for the 10th session of the Mixed Bulgarian-Iranian Committee for Economic, Industrial, Trade and Technological Cooperation in Tehran in late October. The sides discussed plans to increase bilateral trade to $500 million annually, from $60 million, over the next few years.
Tsochev today held talks with Russian Ambassador Alexandr Avdeev on the repayment of Russian debts to Bulgaria, on the negotiation and implementation of strategic cross-border projects, and the forthcoming 4th session of the Mixed Bulgarian- Russian Committee for Economic, Industrial, Trade and Technological Cooperation, in Moscow this November.
The Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Mincho Koralski today met with International Monetary Fund (IMF) Mission Leader for Bulgaria Russel Kincaid,and discussed cost-of-living adjustments in industry and the state-financed sector and of pensions. Kincaid commended Bulgaria's low inflation rate, which Koralski attributed to economic recovery, the stable exchange rate of the lev against the US dollar and the opening of new jobs.