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News from Bulgaria / Feb 15, 96

From: (Embassy of Bulgaria)

Bulgarian Telegraph Agency Directory



15 February, 1996












    Sofia, February 14 (Iva Toncheva of BTA) - In the nearest future Bulgarian Prime Minister Zhan Videnov will send written messages to his Balkan counterparts with more detailed information about the new Bulgarian initiative for reviving Balkanwide cooperation and for holding a meeting of the Balkan Foreign Ministers in Sofia. The message is in the process of drafting, Deputy Foreign Minister Ivan Hristov said.

    The new Bulgarian initiative was promoted by PM Zhan Videnov at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland and at his later meetings with foreign diplomats in Sofia.

    Sofia is keen on hosting the event, as at the latest forum of that kind in Tirana in 1990 it was nominated as the capital to host the next meeting. According to Deputy Foreign Minister Hristov, Bulgaria has the additional advantage of being probably the only state in the Balkans which to the greatest extent maintains good-neighbourly and normal relations with the other Balkan states.

    Before the meeting of Balkan Foreign Ministers, which is expected to be held in 1996, Bulgaria will host another meeting of the foreign ministers of Bulgaria, Greece and Romania who met for the first time last year in Ioannina, Greece.

    The Bulgarian initiative for activating Balkan-wide cooperation and for holding a meeting of Balkan foreign ministers was presented in detail during the official two-day visit of PM Zhan Videnov to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia on Monday and Tuesday.

    "Bulgaria and FR Yugoslavia were unanimous on the issue of Balkanwide cooperation," Deputy Foreign Minister Hristov told journalists commenting on the results of Videnov's visit to Belgrade. The two sides agreed that the Balkan countries should take vigorous actions to renew multilateral dialogue on the region's stabilization and mutually advantageous cooperation and shared the understanding that Balkanwide cooperation means not isolation of the region, but opening it to Europe, Hristov stated.

    The Bulgarian-sponsored proposal for a meeting of the Balkan ministers was backed by the Yugoslav side. Bulgaria maintains the stand that the Balkan countries should be treated on equal footing in regards to their participation in this meeting, Hristov said. "Each country which considers itself Balkan and is committed to the Balkan problems is welcome to the meeting," he added.

    He stressed that for Bulgaria the meeting has not only political implication, but what is more, it will purely pragmatically influence Balkanwide cooperation, based on the understanding that one of the major reason for the inefficiency of the Balkan dialogue is the lack of a communication system. At the meeting Bulgaria will draw the attention to the necessity to consider already launched infrastructure projects on Balkan level and to discuss concrete measures and practical actions aimed to promote transborder communications.


    Sofia, February 14 (BTA) - Parliament adopted a decision endorsing the participation of 50 Bulgarian police observers in the United Nations International Police Task Force (UNIPTF) in Bosnia and Herzegovina for the UN-fixed duration of their mandate.

    According to the UNIPTF mandate, the deployment term of the Bulgarian contingent of police observers in the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina is maximum one year; they will not take direct part in operations for the maintenance of public peace and law enforcement.

    The sending of police observers makes it possible for Bulgaria to join the international community in its efforts to restore peace and public order in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This act does not harm this country's national interests; it is consistent with its policy of cooperation and integration with the European and Euro-Atlantic structures, the parliamentary National Security Committee said in its observations.

    Bulgaria received a formal invitation to join UNIPTF from UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali in December 1995.


    Sofia, February 14 (BTA) 2- Today Parliament adopted a Liquid Fuel Charges Act which provides the introduction of charges on the production and import of liquid fuels. The percentage of the charges calculated on the basis of the producer price or the customable value breaks down as follows: 19 per cent for motor petrol, 15 per cent for diesel fuel and 8 per cent for fuel oil with sulphur content exceeding one per cent.

    Under the act the charges will be contributed to the National Road Network Fund with the Transport Ministry and to the National Environmental Protection Fund. The money of the two funds will be utilized for construction, repair and maintenance of the national road network and railway infrastructure and for environmental projects. The act envisages fines between 5,000 and 10,000 leva for charge evasion and 30,000 to 50,000 leva for repeated offence.


    Sofia, February 14 (BTA) - Parliament adopted an amendment to the Tax Administration Act submitted by the Government which provides for the setting up of a service for the prevention and detection of tax evasion. The service will cover the whole territory of the country.

    Exercising preventive and follow-up control, the service will cooperate with the respective units of the Interior Ministry.

    On discharging their duties, the units of the service have the right to search offices, workshops, storehouses and transport vehicles, to inspect account and merchant books and documents, to confiscate documents. If any of the business premises is used as a dwelling, the search shall be conducted based on a prosecutor's warrant.

    The cases of destructing invoices, concealing account books or keeping false ones to present them to the tax authorities for the purpose of tax evasion have become a well established practice of late. The Tax Administration Act amendment is aimed to ensure high rates of clearing up tax avoidance offences and shorten the time needed for tax inspections, the Government said in its reasoning on submitting the amendment. The amendment to the Tax Administration Act (passed in 1993) is part of the package of Cabinet-drafted measures to improve the collection of taxes.


    Sofia, February 14 (BTA) - Bulgarian Posts and Telecommunications Committee Chairman Lyubomir Kolarov and Ukrainian Minister of Communications Valery Efremov signed an agreement on cooperation today. The document provides for an express delivery service to start operating between the two countries in a month, Efremov said. The document also provides for exchanging philately items and newspapers and magazines.

    The two sides also agreed on the installation of an optical cable between Varna and Odessa in the next 18 months. The companies to install the optical cable have not been chosen yet and the value of the project has not been estimated, Kolarov said.


    Sofia, February 14 (BTA) - Nine Bulgarian officers flew to Luanda today to replace their colleagues of the first batch of military observers under the U.N. UNAVEM-3 mission to Angola. Three of them are veterans of the Bulgarian battalion which took part in the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Cambodia in the early 1990s. All of the officers have passed a special training course for military observers at the Rakovski Military Academy in Sofia.

    Letters and analyses of the group's performance sent to the Bulgarian Defence Ministry and the General Staff will be receivedthrough the so-called 'Africa' garrison once in every two months, the Defence Ministry's "Bulgarska Armiya" daily says. The officers will remain in Angola for one year - the longest one-time mandate of Bulgarian military observers so far. Ten Bulgarian military observers and 15 police ones participate in UNAVEM since early 1995.

    During their mission, the military observers will be paid their full monthly wage in Bulgaria and an additional 50 per cent of it for working in high-risk conditions. The Blue Helmets Section of the Bulgarian General Staff will provide help when needed to the families of the Bulgarian officers in Angola. Yesterday, the group was received by the leadership of the Bulgarian General Staff. The officers were awarded badges of honour for their participation in peacekeeping operations.

    Chief of the General Staff Colonel General Tsvetan Totomirov presented the national flag to the group's commander Lieutenant Colonel Pepi Savov who is also chief of a department with the Defence Ministry.

    This is the third instance of an official participation of a Bulgarian contingent in U.N. peacekeeping missions. The first to take part in such operations were the 850-strong peacekeeping battalion, 16 officers observers and 75 policemen who were posted in cantonments along the Mekong River in Cambodia in 1992-93.

    The Bulgarian participation in the Cambodian operation was assessed in positive terms by both U.N. commanders and officials and officers of foreign military units who served together with the Bulgarians in Cambodia. The Bulgarian battalion there lost ten people, 16 were injured and more than 220 were suffering from various tropical diseases upon their return to Bulgaria.

    After the peacekeepers' return from Cambodia, Bulgaria was invited to take part in new U.N. missions on several occasions. It was proposed to the respective Bulgarian authorities to send Bulgarian observers to Haiti, a helicopter squad to Angola, a Blue Helmets battalion andobservers to Somalia and observers in a number of other countries. Most of the invitations were declined for various reasons.

    Fifteen Bulgarian military observers were ready to depart for Western Sahara last year but due to ogranizational reasons at the UN, the future of the undertaking is yet to be clarified. Bulgarian military observers are taking part in the UNMOT mission on the border between Afghanistan and Tajikistan since February 1995. Five Bulgarian officers are still there. The commanders assess the Bulgarians' performance there in highly positive terms, the Bulgarian press wrote on several occasions last year.

    Having completed a Blue Helmets training course, 210 engineers of the pontoon bridge company were ready to depart to Angola as early as September 1995, an official of the Bulgarian General Staff told "Daily News" after consulting Major General Tencho Dobrev, chief of the Engineer Troop Agency. The Council of Ministers approved in principle Bulgaria's participation in the operation; however, no invitation was received from the UN, officials of the General Staff recalled. There is no invitation for Bulgaria's participation with a sapper company in the mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina despite the agreement in principle to this effect by the Bulgarian authorities.


    Sofia, February 14 (BTA) - A two-day Balkan conference on disasters management begins in Lozen near Sofia tomorrow. It will be attended by delegations of all Balkan countries, with Red Cross societies from Germany, Austria, Norway and Switzerland participating as observers.

    The conference will discuss a model for response to emergencies recommended by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the development of action plans and region-specific approaches, and projects for national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies to join government emergency management structures.

    The forum will seek to set up working groups to develop recommendations for emergency interaction among national societies, Bernd Hausman of the International Federation said. He observed that the measures to be mapped out Sofia should be taken into account in national emergency budgets.

    The Balkans are a high-risk area, and such a conference would be very beneficial to the region's Red Cross and Red Crescent societies. The Bulgarian Red Cross has the best organizational tradition and equipment, which is one reason to hold the forum in Bulgaria, Hausman said.


    Sofia, February 14 (BTA) - Bulgarian language and literature will be taught at the Ilya Mechnikov University of Odessa; students descended from Bulgarian immigrants to Ukraine are taking a course at a training centre for Bulgarian expatriates in Gabrovo (Central Bulgaria), BTA's local correspondent reported. In 1996 the centre will give 58 courses in old Bulgarian literature, phonetics and ethnography to 2,000 trainees. Groups from Moldova and Romania will join those from Ukraine. In five years 3,000 trainees have attended courses in Gabrovo.

    Socialist MP Todor Todorov, who was found with a bullet wound earlier this month and has not come out of a coma since then, is in critical condition, BTA learned from the chief of the hospital in Dobrich (Northeastern Bulgaria). Police experts said Todorov had attempted suicide, which provoked speculation in the press that he was involved in illicit grain exports last autumn that led to a grain shortage.

    Teodossi Spassov, the famous Bulgarian shepherd's pipe player, and India's Triloc Gurtu, the number one percussionist of 1995, are giving a concert in Sofia tonight.

    Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski will not be attending the February 16-17 conference of Francophone countries in Bordeaux as announced earlier this week, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Pantelei Karasimeonov said today. Deputy Foreign Minister Stefan Staikov will represent Bulgaria at the forum.

    Pirinski has government commitments and is engaged in preparing a visit to Sofia by Belarus's Prime Minister Mikhas Chigir. Georgi Pirinski will make an official visit to Cyprus in March, the Foreign Ministry told a news conference today answering a question by BTA. The visit has been postponed several times.

    Late next week Pirinski is leaving for Moscow to prepare Prime Minister Zhan Videnov's visit there, BTA learned from the Foreign Ministry spokesman.

    The foreign ministers of Bulgaria, Greece and Romania are expected to meet in this country by the end of March.

    "A list of criminals has been drawn up and is on my desk," Interior Minister Lyubomir Nachev told BTA, following a recent statement that he has the names of 3,000 criminals and will have them published. "After certain checks I will hand it to the Prosecutor General, probably early next week," Nachev said. Besides persons facing charges, there are those whom we have been handed over to the judicial authorities," he said, adding that the list should be updated so as not to have dead persons on it.

    Lyubomir Nachev today signed a cooperation agreement with the Union of Commissioned and Noncommissioned Officers, allowing former officers to use the Ministry's housing and vacation facilities.


    Sofia, February 14 (Evgeniya Droumeva of BTA) - The 50 intellectuals in the Concord for Bulgaria group announced at a press conference today that they will continue to support the reelection bid of incumbent President Zhelyu Zhelev. They said the reason to form the group was the offensive of the ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), and the importance of the presidential election at the end of this year. The group announced a list of 53 members of an initiative committee to support the Zhelev campaign.

    Concord for Bulgaria was set up late last year. On January 16, 1996 the fifty met with President Zhelev, asking him a number of questions; one was if he believed the downfall of the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) government in late 1992 was an outcome of his sharp criticism of it that summer. Zhelev, a co-founder and first leader of the UDF, said he would answer the questions in writing, and yesterday handed his answers to the group. In his answers, Zhelev comments on his errors and achievements as President, also stating his reasons for seeking reelection.

    The group of fifty includes writers Georgi Mishev and Lyuben Dilov, poet Vutyo Rakovski, sociologist Georgi Fotev, film director Anri Koulev, journalists Koprinka Chervenkova and Petko Bocharov and others. Some are known for their anti-communist stands, but the group has emphasized it unites people with different political views. According to sociologist Roumen Draganov, they are united around the conviction that the democratic process is in jeopardy, as a result of the ruling party's tight grip on power. "We want to warn thinking people of this danger," Draganov said. He also said the group is willing to join forces with "everybody who works for democracy."

    "We are seeking unification of the democratic forces around Zhelev's candidacy," said political scientist Emil Koshloukov, former leader of the UDF-affiliated student organization. According to him, Zhelev cannot be the candidate of a single political force. Koshloukov announced the group will soon meet with leaders of opposition parties in and outside Parliament.

    Journalist Petko Bocharov said in the run-up to the presidential election, Concord for Bulgaria intends to build local organizations nationwide, "to counter the structures of the Communist party." According to Bocharov, in his bid for reelection, Zhelev will count not only on anti-communist democratic forces, but also on the one-third of voters who did not turn up at the last parliamentary and local polls.

    Other members believe there is enough time for the opposition to unite around Zhelev's candidacy. "We will try to persuade the leaders of the UDF and other democratic parties to support Zhelev as an outstanding democrat," Draganov commented.

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