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News from Bulgaria, 96-09-04
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From: Embassy of Bulgaria <firstname.lastname@example.org>
EMBASSY OF BULGARIA - WASHINGTON D.C.
BTA - BULGARIAN TELEGRAPH AGENCYSeptember 4, 1996
 BULGARIA, ARMENIA SIGN AGREEMENT FOR MILITARY COOPERATIONYerevan, September 3 (BTA) - The relations in the military field between Bulgaria and Armenia have been following the development of the political relations and realities during the past few years. This is what the two defence ministers Vazgen Sarkissian of Armenia and Dimiter Pavlov of Bulgaria found out on the signing of an agreement for military cooperation in Yerevan, head of the Defence Ministry's press office captain Tsviatko Donchev said. Minister Pavlov arrived on a visit to Yerevan yesterday at the head of a military delegation at the invitation of his Armenian counterpart.
The signed agreement specifies and gives new impetus to the relations in the military scientific and military technical fields, the news release of the Defence Ministry says. The Bulgarian delegation also met with the leadership of the Armenian Defence Ministry. The hosts showed interest in the progress of the reform in the Bulgarian army and the settlement of issues connected with the transition to brigade and corps organisation, the relocation of army units, armament and war equipment and the training and development of the military personnel.
During their talks the two defence ministers highly estimated the position of the two states' military diplomacies on the development of the traditional relations and the efforts taken to find a constructive approach for ensuring peace and stability in the two regions. Minister Papazian familiarized his Bulgarian counterpart with the situation in Nagorni Karabakh and Armenia's efforts for the settlement of the conflict.
Later in the day Minister Pavlov will be received by Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossiaan and by Chairman of the National Assembly Babken Ararksian, the Defence Ministry's press office also said.
 COUNCIL OF MINISTERS' DECISIONSSofia, September 3 (BTA) - At their meeting yesterday the Cabinet heard a report on the planned privatization of the largest oil refinery Plama of Pleven (Northern Bulgaria), Government Spokesman Nikola Baltov said. "The Privatization Agency has already held talks with five potential buyers," Director Veselin Blagoev said. "A world-known petrol company confirmed its readiness to work in cooperation with Plama after its privatization," Blagoev said without specifying the company's name.
The Government fixed the updated minimum purchase prices for tobacco of the 1996 harvest. They range between 580 leva/kg for the best grades to 75 leva/kg (1 USD currently equals 205.93 levs).
 CABINET APPROVES USD 42 MLN-WORTH PRIVATIZATION DEALSSofia, September 3 (BTA) - The government yesterday approved USD 42 million-worth privatization deals, journalists were told today by government spokesman Nikola Baltov.
The Daewoo corporation of South Korea will pay USD 22,300,000 for a 76% stake in Sofia's Sheraton hotel, said Privatization Agency chief Vesselin Blagoev. The payment will be made in cash within a month.
The government also approved the sale of 55% of the shares in Eltos Inc., a manufacturer of electrical appliances in the Central Bulgarian town of Lovech. The new owner is Sparky Trading of Germany and the deal is financed by BNP Dresdner in Sofia and Dresdner Bank of Germany. The shares are worth DM 11,500,000 as the new owner undertakes the 2,251 million leva liabilities of the company and pledges to invest DM 12 million over the next five years.
A 51% stake in one of the biggest hotels in the Borovets skiing resort, Pila, too will be sold. The potential buyers are the Klimati company, currently managing the hotel and Multigroup, one of Bulgaria's biggest economic conglomerates. The deal is worth USD
 6,130,000.The government also okayed the sale of 55% of the Chernomorsko Zlato cognac distillery of Pomorie, on the southern Black Sea coast. The only requirement of the Privatization Agency is that 20% of the shares for sale to be offered to vine growers. The aim is to preserve vine plantations with high quality varieties, said Blagoev. The stake is worth USD 4,300,000 and the bidders include members of the management, private vine growers and cooperatives.
The list of units to go private also includes 2 hotels in the Black Sea resort of Golden Sands and 13 separate parts of units owned by the Agrobiochim company.
The bidder for one of the hotels, Diana, is a Russian company and the price is expected to fetch over 100 million leva with additional investment amounting to 800 million leva to be made later (USD 1 exchanges against 205.93 leva at the official exchange rate). The other hotel, Briz, is worth 58 million leva with 100 million leva expected to be invested later.
The Privatization Agency has signed 1,247 privatization deals in the January-August period, said Vesselin Blagoev. Of them 268 were in the state-owned sector with their number expected to reach 460 by year's end. The rest of the deals were for municipal property.
The proceeds totalled 32,000 million leva. 16,260 million leva were paid in cash and 7,510 million leva were paid for settling liabilities.
The additional investment in units that have gone private is expected to reach 8,130 million leva by year's end.
The newly privatized companies provide 30,699 jobs including 3,366 new ones.
 BAN ON COOKING OIL EXPORTS WILL NOT BE LIFTED, NORMALIZATION OF HOME MARKET EXPECTEDSofia, September 3 (Ekaterina Kazassova of BTA) - Cooking oil shortages on the home market in Bulgaria frustrated intentions to export cooking oil, it transpired today at a joint news conference of Trade and Foreign Economic Relations Minister Atanas Paparizov and Agriculture and Foods Industry Minister Krustyo Trendafilov. They acquainted journalists with the measures for overcoming oil shortages.
The banning of cooking oil export is the first step taken by the Government. Today's Official Gazette publishes a Government Decree cancelling the planned export of 20,000 tonnes of cooking oil. This is not the best possible step, the Agriculture Minister claims. But market shortages made it inevitable. The Government will also impose economic and administrative sanctions on managers of state-owned enterprises withholding cooking oil in their warehouses.
This autumn too started with sunflower oil shortages, but while in the past few years these shortages were due to insufficient production or uncontrolled export, this year they were artificially provoked, experts say.
Vegetable oil shortages on the market are speculative pressure for increasing prices, the Agriculture Minister claims. There were 48,502 tonnes of cooking oil at 13 state-owned and four private enterprises by August 24, according to an Agriculture Ministry inquiry.
Over 500,000 hectares were put under sunflower in 1995. The 767,000-tonne sunflower harvest is an all-time record for this country. Only a month ago sunflower oil plants complained they were overstocked and could not buy sunflower seed of the new harvest. After the Government announced its intentions to lift the ban on sunflower oil exports, these plants stopped supplying the home market in the hope of exporting their output at more lucrative prices. Already early this summer they insisted on the sanctioning of the export of 15,000 tonnes of cooking oil. Then, however, the lifting of the ban was considered premature as the size of this year's harvest was unknown. Uncontrolled export of cooking oil resulted in acute shortages and soaring prices on the home market in 1994.
A total of 14 state-owned companies are working in the cooking oil industry. There are also four large and 20 smaller privately owned enterprises in this branch. Now they are withholding their output in expectation of higher prices following the higher sunflower seed purchase prices this year. While in 1994 1 kg of sunflower seed was purchased at 6 to 10 leva, this year the purchasing campaign started at 22-25 leva. In addition, enterprises lack funds to start purchasing sunflower seed. Paradoxically enough, instead of trying to market their produce they are applying for credits for purchasing their raw material, the Agriculture Minister said.
Agriculture Minister Krustyo Trendafilov expects the measures to normalize the market. The Agriculture Ministry is also contemplating measures such as imposing more efficient pricing control on producers and traders, including a temporary introduction of ceiling prices. For the time being the Ministry is not in a hurry to propose these measures to the Government, probably recalling that after similar measures two years ago cooking oil disappeared altogether from the market.
 ONE IN THREE JOBLESS IS A YOUNG PERSONSofia, September 3 (BTA) - Some 107,000 Bulgarians aged 24 and younger registered as unemployed in July, according to the monthly brief of the National Employment Service (NES). The jobless total during the month was 396,381, up 4 per cent from June. University graduates accounted for most of the increase. On the other hand, labour demand heightened in July, with 10 per cent more job vacancies. Of the young people out of work, 32,000 are qualified in industrial manual work, 14,158 in engineering, 2,440 in farming, 4,034 in economics, 625 in health care, 588 in the arts, 1,249 in other fields, and 1,799 hold university degrees or are teachers. About half of the young jobless are women. At 10 per cent now, the labour force participation rate of the unemployed marks a record low in the last five years, the NES said. The National Statistical Institute, however, puts the number of people out of work at over 500,000. The discrepancy is due mainly to the fact that the National Employment Service does not count the hard-core unemployed who have lost their benefit entitlement and the pensioners seeking work. As a percentage of the labour force, the unemployment rate in Bulgaria was 1.9 per cent in 1990, 13.2 per cent in 1994 and 11.6 per cent in 1995, according to the NES. Statisticians express alarm at the fact that nearly 35 per cent of the unemployed are aged under 35. The young and the better educated are the worst hit by job losses. The Region of Rousse has the largest unemployed population, followed by the regions of Montana, Lovech, Bourgas and Plovdiv. Another 60,000-70,000 will shortly join the dole queue after the closure of money-losing state-owned enterprises. More than 55 firms are in the job-finding business, and some 400 are retraining redundancies. Young people who want to start a small business of their own will be assisted by an expressly established fund.
 BUSINESS PRESSSofia, September 3 (BTA) - First Private Bank was 4,000 million leva in the black in end-August, runs a banner headline in "24 Chassa", quoting regulator Lyudmil Vladimirov. Four months ago when central bank-appointed regulators entered First Private Bank, it was 4,000 million leva in the red, the daily recalls. The largest support for the bank's stabilization came in the form of a 3,100-million-lev deal between Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung and the 168 Hours Press Group Ltd, says the daily published by the latter.
Two companies were sold off by the Privatization Agency, the press reports. The Vitamina cannery in the town of Stamboliiski (Southern Bulgaria) was bought by Bulgarian-Greek TKM Fruit and Juices Manufacturing, which assumed the company's outstanding debt of 1,700 million leva and is to invest 160.6 million leva. Vitamina is among Bulgaria's major canneries and metal-packaging makers, with 67 per cent of its output intended for export.
Bulgarleasing bought Pirinplast of the town of Gotse Delchev (Southwestern Bulgaria), pledging to forgive part of its DM 9,779,000 debt and reschedule the remainder over five years.
Three seaside resorts will become stakeholders in Balkan Holidays through a debt-for-equity swap, "24 Chassa" says, quoting Golden Sands Manager Ilko Zapryanov. He said the Committee of Tourism will cover the tour operator's obligations to some of the largest resorts. Balkan Holidays of Sofia and London ran up a debt in 1993-94. Its manager Vladimir Groupchev said the swap would settle the company's debts to its major creditors.
Russia has delayed the delivery of nuclear fuel for Unit Six of the Kozlodoui nuclear power plant, "Standart News" says. Russia wants a bank guarantee for an 18-million-dollar payment by the National Electric Company for the fuel. It was due to be flown in on September 4 after Ukraine denied it passage across its territory, the daily says, adding that the 1,000-MW Unit Six can still be restarted in November as scheduled.
 AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLERS' STRIKE BLOCKS VARNA, BOURGAS, SOFIA AIRPORTS, CALLED OFF AFTER HIGHJACKSofia, September 3 (BTA) - The one-hour strike declared today by the Bulgarian Air Traffic Control Association (Bulatka) at the Varna, Bourgas and Sofia airports, was called off after a Bulgarian plane was reported highjacked, said the chief of the Sofia airport air traffic control authority, Valentin Vulkov. In a view of the passengers' safety, the strikers will not take action until the situation is taken under control, "Daily News" was told by Bulatka leader Stefan Raichev.
In mid-August Bulatka threatened to stage a strike unless their demands for doubling their monthly wages and replacing the management of the Sofia air traffic control authority are met by August 20. Bulatka leader Stefan Raichev said the strike started after no reply came both from the Sofia air traffic control authority and from Transport Minister Stamen Stamenov.
Bulatka takes advantage of its monopoly on Bulgarian air and is blackmailing the state with financial demands that are unfeasible in its present condition, said Valentin Vulkov. He said the monthly wages of air traffic controllers are the highest in the air traffic control authority and Bulgaria in general, and are constantly rising together with all fringe benefits.
About 20 air traffic controllers of the Varna, Bourgas and Sofia airport declared support for three colleagues who started a hunger strike yesterday, BTA was told by Bulatka. More of Bulgaria's 350 air traffic controllers are expected to join in, said Stefan raichev.
The air traffic control authority with Balkan Airlines was managed by the Sofia airport till 1988, when Bulatka was set up. Since then it has been an independent administrative body financed by airport fees.
 BULGARIAN AIRCRAFT HIJACKEDSofia, September 3 (BTA) - An unknown hijacker demanded that a Tu-154 aircraft of the private Bulgarian Hemus Air, flying from Beirut to Varna, be refuelled and given passage to Oslo (Norway) after landing at Varna Airport early this afternoon, said Varna Airport Air Traffic Control chief Valentin Vulkov.
Citing the Varna Airport air traffic control officer on duty, Dimiter Marinov, National Radio reported that there was only one hijacker who was in the cockpit. The passengers were freed and no one was injured, National Radio said. The aircraft is waiting to be refuelled and will probably take off for Oslo or Helsinki, National Radio added.
Later in the afternoon BTA received a press release of the Bulgarian Interior Ministry which said:
A Tu 154 charter plane, rented by the private Hemus Air air carrier and property of Balkan Airlines, flying from Beirut, landed at Varna Airport at 15:32 today with 150 passengers on board. The coordinating centre of the airport reported that there was an armed person on board. Probably following the instructions of the hijacker, chief pilot Walter Kolev asked for the plane to be refuelled. All measures have been taken for guaranteeing the safety of the passengers and the crew, the press release said.
Half an hour before the plane was due to land chief pilot Walter Kolev informed Varna Airport that there was a hijacker in the cockpit, the BTA correspondent in Varna reported. There is only one hijacker holding a bomb in his hands and demanding passage to Oslo, Atanas Atanassov, Varna Airport director, told BTA.
The chief pilot told the hijacker there was not enough fuel and he agreed to let the aircraft land at Varna Airport for refuelling. Following negotiations, the hijacker also agreed to free the 150 passengers on board who are mainly from the Middle East, and their luggage.
The hijacker spoke broken English and is presumed to be of Arab origin. He did not wish to negotiate with anyone on Bulgarian territory.
The eight-member crew is Bulgarian. All international flights to Varna were diverted to Bourgas (also on the Black Sea, some 100 km south of Varna).
At 18:07 the plane was refuelled and took off for Oslo with the hijacker and the Bulgarian crew on board, Bulgarian National Radio reported, citing Radio Varna. The nationality and identity of the hijacker are still unknown. The flight to Oslo is three and a half hours. Varna Airport is now open to all flights, Bulgarian National Radio said.
The hijacker is Palestinian Nadir Abdallah, aged 25-30, a specially formed team of the Interior Ministry established through the chief pilot, the Interior Ministry press office reported later today. The terrorist held a makeshift bomb constituting two cartridges of ammelide, wires and a battery.
Taking into account claims by passengers that the hijacker did not respond adequately to admonitions to give up his intentions and in compliance with international norms of action in such situations, the special team decided to grant the demands of the hijacker and give him passage to Oslo so as to guarantee the safety of the crew, the Interior Ministry added.
 SOCIALISTS CONSIDER FURTHER PARTICIPATION IN PRESIDENTIAL RACESofia, September 3 (BTA) - The top political leadership of the ruling Socialist party this evening is discussing its further participation in the presidential campaign for the October 27 elections after the Supreme Court cast doubt over the eligibility of Socialist candidate Georgi Pirinski. The Supreme Court yesterday rejected a claim with which the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) challenged the refusal of the Central Electoral Commission to register Pirinski over uncertainties whether he actually meets the constitutional requirement to be a natural-born Bulgarian. The incumbent Foreign Minister was born in the United States to an American mother and a Bulgarian emigre father.
The BSP, the dominating force in the ruling Democratic Left coalition, now must decide whether to name another presidential candidate or try once again to register Pirinski. Analysts believe Pirinski will hardly remain in the presidential race. The press today unanimously name sitting National Assembly Chairman Blagovest Sendov, vice presidential candidate Culture Minister Ivan Marazov and Interior Minister Nikolai Dobrev as the most likely replacements of Pirinski.
Ivan Marazov and Nikolai Kamov MP (in the BSP leadership) are probable candidates, Ivailo Kalfin, spokesperson of the Pirinski Marazov tandem, told BTA. Former BSP leader Alexander Lilov is also mentioned as a likely presidential candidate.
The Executive Bureau of the Supreme Council of the BSP may propose the nomination of Ivan Marazov as president and Irina Bokova as vice president, participants in the session said.
Alexander Lilov told BTA that he will decline an offer to run for president.
"The decision of the Supreme Court, as represented by this panel, goes beyond normal practice in such cases [...]. Reviewing the case, the court ruled on a matter it was not approached on: the citizenship by birth of the presidential candidate of the Democratic Left," Pirinski told a news conference he called today to comment the Supreme Court ruling. "This essential weakness of the ruling makes it vulnerable from a constitutional and procedural stand point," he said adding that "the decision will affect seriously the progress of the presidential campaign and the electors' opportunity to choose freely one or another candidate". Pirinski said further he might approach the Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. "I have no plans to step down from the message 'Together for Bulgaria'", he said. Both at the news conference and in an interview for Bulgarian National Television, he voiced belief in the future success of the Left's presidential campaign, saying the Democratic Left can easily name a new candidate in the race. According to him his running mate Marazov is likely to replace him. He dismissed the possibility to have a non-BSP candidate backed by the BSP. Pirinski believes that the new president must stand higher than all partisan considerations and say clearly to the public that the nation must be united around the national objectives and address them on the basis of consensus.
Pirinski described as "harmful for the nation" the efforts of the opposition "to seek a new round of confrontation, early general elections and changes in the executive".
"Any development is possible after the decision of the Supreme Court," President Zhelyu Zhelev said in a late night interview for the National Television today. He would not commit himself to make any projections. "The situation in the country is what matters for me and it is exasperating and may spring all kinds of surprise," he said.
"The development of the situation connected with the presidential elections is blurring in a sense the real problems the country faces and this is most alarming," President Zhelev said.
He described as "speculations of unsure of themselves persons from the party headquarters" some recently cited in the press statements that he is seeking a way to run for another term as president (after he lost at the primary elections of the opposition on June 1). "What I am mainly interested is how to make Bulgaria a republic with a presidential rule, or a presidential republic. I see no other solution to the problems. Everything else is palliative. Even if Jesus Christ becomes a president he will not be able to set Bulgaria right under the current Constitution," Mr Zhelev said
The BSP is currently looking for a candidate sure to lose the presidential election, Ivan Kostov, the leader of the opposition Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) told a news conference today. "We are not interested in the person the BSP will name as its candidate because it will be a candidate with whom the BSP goes to the elections to lose," Kostov also said. He, however, hailed BSP's decision to accept the Supreme Court ruling instead of heightening tension.
In a declaration released last night the Democratic Left criticized severely the court ruling but said it will do its best to ensure the timely, fair and democratic conduct of the elections, in which it will participate with its own candidate.
National Assembly Chairman Sendov today did not rule out the possibility of postponing the election within the constitutionally set period.
 DIPLOMATIC SPORTS CLUB OPENEDSofia, September 3 (BTA) - A diplomatic sports club was opened this evening in the Boyana suburb of Sofia. This is the only sports club of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Its sports complex offers indoor tennis court, indoor 25-m swimming pool with solariums, halls for table tennis, body-building and fitness, massage rooms, saunas and a restaurant.
The capacity of the sports complex which will be at the sole disposal of the diplomatic representatives in Bulgaria is 100-150 persons a day. Annual subscription is 1,000 US dollars.
In his address at the opening ceremony Mr Peter Drashkov, director of the complex, extended thanks to the diplomats for their attendance and to the constructing companies Sportstroi Komplekt and Polimerstroi.
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