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Bulgaria-US-Visit. Foreign Minister Solomon Passy meets congressman John Wilson. PressPhoto-BTA Photo: Rumyana Kinkina
Nadezhda Mihailova Formed Shadow Cabinet of Her Own. Ekaterina Mihailova, Edvin Sougarev, Plamen Oresharski and Vladimir Kissiov are the new UDF deputy chairmen. This decision was taken by the National Council at its first sitting yesterday. Nikolai Mladenov, Ergin Emin, Dr Vanio Sharkov and Gospodin Tonev were also elected members of the NEC. "All of them, save for Ekaterina Mihailova, are close to Nadezhda," NEC members said and elaborated that this structuring resembled a Shadow cabinet. On the photo: Nadezhda consults the new Chief Secretary Ivan Ivanov and Edvin Sougarev is gazing at them with a vigilant eye. Photo Kiril Konstantinov
SITUATION IN CRISIS REGIONS.
The police teams will not patrol Wednesday through the villages of Zelino, Gorna & Dolna Lesnica and Strimnica, due to continuous resistance by the local inhabitants.
As reported by the Media Activity Center at the governmental Coordinate Body for Crisis Management, the patrolling proceeds as planned in the rest of the foreseen villages.
Wednesday is the last day for police's patrolling through the villages of Otunje, Setole, Jedoarce, Varvara, Brezno and Jelosnik, Tetovo area. Starting from Thursday, the police will be present in these villages for 24 hours a day.
It is calm in Tetovo crisis region Wednesday morning differently from Tuesday night when shootouts from infantry weapons have been registered from several villages.
Police sources say shootouts have been registered from the villages of Odri, Prvce, Prsovce, Orasje, Mala Recica, Selce, Gajre, Vratnicko Ezero locality, as well as from Rasadiste locality and Arabati Baba Teke.
Armed provocations have not been directed at the positions of the Macedonian security forces whereat they did not fire back.
Centre for Media Activity of the Coordinative Body for Crisis Management informs 22 sporadic and four rifle shootouts have been registered in Kumanovo - Lipkovo region and five sporadic and four rifle shootouts in Tetovo region.
MEETING OF CHIEFS OF ARMY STAFFS OF MACEDONIA AND BULGARIA.
High delegation from the Army of the Republic of Macedonia, led by the Chief of the army Staff, General-Colonel Metodi Stamboliski, met on Wednesday with Head of the Bulgarian Army Staff, general Miho Mihov.
As spokesman of the ARM Staff Colonel Blagoja Markovski told MIA, the meeting was focused on the activities of the two armies regarding the defense preparations, as well as on the national programs of the two countries for gaining NATO membership.
General Stamboliski reported on the current security situation in Macedonia, as well as on the ARM activities for implementation of the peace in the country. Expressing hope that the situation in the country would be soon stabilized, General Stamboliski pointed out the need of increased cooperation in the framework of NATO and the Partnership for Peace, as well as in the field of the bilateral cooperation with the Bulgarian Army.
General Mihov expressed satisfaction from the openness of General Stamboliski, and referring to the stability in the region said that the things should start and end at the same place, i.e. in the region itself.
Minister Mihov also referred to the future activities of the Bulgarian Army in regard to the modernization of the Armed Forces.
It was concluded at the meeting that the relations between the two armies ought to continue according to the scheduled program.
FOREIGN MINISTER CASULE MEETS US SPECIAL ENVOY FOR BALKANS HOLMES.
Macedonian Foreign Minister Slobodan Casule met US Special Envoy for the Balkans James Holmes Wednesday.
The meeting included discussions on the positive effects of the meeting of Vilnius Group member countries, which was recently held in Skopje, expressing the incentive for the process of strengthening the security and stability of the region, as well as support for the NATO determination for its future expansion.
Minister Casule informed about the current political-security issues in the country and expressed his gratitude for the US contribution at the donors' conference.
In connection to the issue of the Macedonian-Yugoslav border in the part of Kosovo, Ambassador Holmes reiterated the position that the USA fully respected the Border Delineation Agreement between the Republic of Macedonia and FR Yugoslavia.
Holmes was also acquainted with the preparations for the new election model, which would soon be presented by the political parties before the Macedonian Government.
The news that have arrived on Tuesday from the Donors' Conference in Brussels are very good for Macedonia, US State Department special envoy for SEE James Holmes said Wednesday in Skopje.
"The US along with the European Union, the European Commission and the World Bank have been and will be primary partners to Macedonia," Holmes said, adding that the US pledged over 5 million at the conference and announced additional assistance of US$ 75 million.
Implementing of the Framework Agreement would remain a main principle for the US and the international community readiness to grant the necessary assistance, Holmes said, adding that additional efforts should be made for enforcing of the local government and amnesty laws.
"The US beliefs that Macedonia will continue to work towards peace and prosperity," Holmes said, adding, "those who respect the Macedonian border are respecting its territorial integrity and sovereignty."
The Border Agreement had to be respected as it was the common position of the international community, the UN Security Council Chairman and member countries, Holmes said.
The international community would use all available means to oppose those, who would violate the peace in Macedonia.
"Those who thought that were entitled to such activities last year, have no right to it this year," he said.
MACEDONIAN POLICE OPEN FOR COOPERATION.
"The Macedonian police is maximally open for cooperation and there are no dilemmas regarding the issue on closing all cases related with the Hague Tribunal, including Ljuboten," Macedonian Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski said.
He reminded that the Interior Ministry was the first institution that requested investigation in Ljuboten, the same day when the shootout occurred, but the armed groups in the village did not allow that.
Minister Boskovski said that the process of peaceful reintegration in the crisis regions and the police redeployment are slowed again by some armed groups.
"I am sure that the Macedonian security forces are ready to restore the constitutional law order in the country, because at this moment all excuses are exhausted and the strong arguments are in favor of Republic of Macedonia," Boskovski stressed, adding that Europe and the international community changed their position on this issue, so "we are ahead of it."
He expressed his readiness the police to deal appropriately with every mistake and armed incident, according to the International Law and the Macedonian Constitution.
Minister Boskovski announced that the documentation on "Rastanski lozja," a case on which Interpol also works, would be available to the public.
DONORS' CONFERENCE IS A CONFIRMATION OF THE PROGRESS MADE IN THE PEACE PROCESS.
Financial assistance, granted at the Donors' Conference, is a confirmation of the willingness of the international community to help Macedonia, and of its belief in the progress that has been made so far in the peace process, spokesperson of the European Union Irena Gjuzelova said Wednesday at the press conference.
Donors would not have pledged money from their taxpayers if they believed in renewal of violence in the country, Gjuzelova said.
She reminded that yesterday at the conference in Brussels, the donors pledged Euro 307 million in aid to Macedonia, which exceeds the amount the Macedonian Government has sought for meeting of the country's needs for 2002.
Commenting a suggestion by the International Crisis Group (ICG) for appointing of an anticorruption adviser in Macedonia, Gjuzelova said that the donors, who bear responsibly before their taxpayers, wished to be certain that the money would be spent appropriately.
"This is the ICG proposal, but I have no information that the process for appointing of an adviser has started," she added.
UNHCR representative to Macedonia Brita Helleland expressed hope that the financial means, granted at the Donors' Conference, would contribute to stabilizing of the whole country, creating conditions for safe return of the displaced persons to their homes.
Helleland also referred to the UNHCR project for reconstruction of houses in the crisis region, saying that repairing of about 600-700 houses is underway in 17 villages. A total of US$ 800,000 is allocated for this purpose.
NATO spokesman Craig Ratkliff welcomed the Macedonian Government efforts in passing of an amnesty law.
"This law has shown the Government's commitment to peace and stability in the country," Ratkliff said.
The Law on Amnesty would certainly contribute to faster redeployment of police in the crisis regions, OSCE spokesman Harald Schenker said.
Asked about OSCE and NATO monitoring of the forthcoming elections, Ratkliff said that the matter had not been discussed yet.
The OSCE spokesman considered that the question was premature, as the date and election model has not be determined yet.
Referring to information on possible uniting of KFOR and Task Force Fox, Ratkliff said that nothing would be changed in the TFF mandate.
"We are considering the number of people that will be necessary, but nothing has been said about uniting of these missions," he added.
Commenting the statement by NATO Secreatry General George Robertson on a possibility for the EU to take over a command of the international mission to Macedonia, Ratkliff said that the issue was being discussed, but no decisions have been made yet. The Macedonian Government should also present its position on this matter, he added.
POLITICAL POSITIONS OVER ELECTION MODEL BROUGHT INTO ACCORD.
The four main political parties - signers of the Framework Agreement, agreed for the forthcoming elections to follow the proportional election model of six units, each electing 20 deputies, Macedonian Minister of Justice, Ixhet Memeti stated after the third meeting dedicated to the preparation of the law on election units.
According to Minister Memeti, the representatives of the four main political parties agreed over the criteria for determining the six election units.
He said that it was agreed for the borders of the election units to be determined by means of consensus, and added that if a general agreement could not be reached, " the two Albanian parties retained the right not to except the election model."
Memeti stated that the first criterion, according to which the election units would be determined, was the equal number of voters, while the second was "the national structure of the electorate." The Minister of Justice went on further, explaining the above mentioned criterion, and said that it did not mean the elimination of the possibility " for certain nationalities to be given the opportunity to elect its deputies," adding, "the purpose of this criterion is for each vote to be equal."
Memeti announced that the next meeting of the working group would be held on Tuesday.
Sofia, March 13 (BTA) - Experts from the Bulgarian and Macedonian border control services will prepare the draft for a protocol on cooperation and exchange of expertise. The document will regulate the opportunities for Macedonian personnel to receive training at the Center for Specialization and Professional Training with the National Border Police Service (NBPS), the NBPS spokesman told BTA Wednesday.
A delegation from the Border Control Service of the Macedonian Interior Ministry, led by head of the Border Crossings Department Valentina Ivanova, is here to prepare the draft protocol. The directors of the Deve Bair, Delchevo and Novo Selo border crossings are also on the Macedonian delegation.
The meeting is held in pursuance of the intergovernmental agreements on cooperation in fight against organized crime, terrorism and illegal migration and on the training of Macedonian personnel at educational establishments in Bulgaria signed February 26 in Skopje, the press release said Later on Wednesday, the Macedonian delegation will be familiarized with the educational process at the NBPS training center in Pazardjik.
Foreign Minister Passy: US See Bulgaria as Very Reliable NATO Applicant.
Washington, March 13 (BTA special correspondent Rumyana Kinkina) - It has become clear to the US administration by now that there will be no changes in Bulgaria's foreign policies after the recent presidential elections, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Passy told journalists.
On Tuesday, Passy held seven meetings with senators, congress people and senior administration officials. He met with senators Richard Lugar, John Kyle and John Warner and with congressman John Wilson.
At the Pentagon, Passy met with Peter Rodman, Assistant Secretary of Defence, and with Mark Ewing, deputy director of the Defence Intelligence Agency. Passy bestowed on former US secretary of state Madeline Allbright the Golden Laurel Branch honorary badge of the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry.
Recapping impressions from his meetings in Washington, Passy noted that Bulgaria is seen here as a very reliable candidate for NATO membership but that a decision on the enlargement of the Alliance has not been taken yet and will not be taken before September 2002. Replying to a question, Passy said that, at this stage, he is optimistic about Bulgaria's chances of being invited to join NATO at the Prague summit this fall.
At 21:30hrs Sofia time on Wednesday, Passy is scheduled to meet with US Secretary of State Colin Powell. Before that he will hold five meetings with senators and congress people.
BULGARIA - US - DEFENCE.
General Peter Pace: "Bulgarian Servicemen's Professionalism Is Obvious."
Sofia, March 13 (BTA) - Before finishing his visit to Bulgaria Wednesday, General Peter Pace, Vice Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, gave a news briefing together with Bulgarian Armed Forces Chief of General Staff Gen. Miho Mihov.
"I saw your soldiers in Bosnia. I saw your soldiers and airmen here on Tuesday. Their professionalism is obvious. And I pledge to do all in my power to find ways that our two countries can move forward together," General Pace said.
During his visit Tuesday and Wednesday, the guest toured 61st Motorized Brigade stationed in Karlovo, Central Bulgaria, and the Graf Ignatievo and Kroumovo airbases, and conferred with Defence Minister Nikolai Svinarov.
"I have been the Vice Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff just about six months," General Pace said. "This has been the first opportunity to travel outside of my country. I was able to select whichever country I wanted to visit, and I asked your authorities here if I could come to Bulgaria first."
"It was important to me for several reasons. First, I wanted to come say thank you. Thank you for your friendship and your support around the world. Thank you for your soldiers who serve in Afghanistan. Thank you for your peacekeeping soldiers who serve in Bosnia-Herzegovina and in Kosovo.
Thank you for being allowed to overfly your country with our airplanes and to land here and refuel. And thank you for your commitment to international peace," the US general said.
According to General Mihov, the sides discussed "the new theoretical concepts concerning the fight against terrorism, the use of armed forces in peacekeeping missions, and most importantly, communication - in both technical and linguistic terms."
Mihov said he was very impressed by what Pace had told the Defence Minister, that Bulgaria has "very capable" servicemen.
"Our men need motivation and encouragement," Mihov said.
The destruction of Bulgaria's SS-23 and Scud missiles was not discussed, Mihov said.
Pace was asked whether the US Congress has really decided to co-finance the army reforms in seven NATO applicants, Bulgaria included, with 300 million US dollars for each country a year.
"I do not know the specifics," Pace said, "but I do know that each year our Congress does allocate a certain amount of money for us to work with our partners around the world. And I do know that in the past - as will be in the future - there have been resources allocated by our Congress to assist our work here with you in Bulgaria. [. . .] I do know for certain that we will continue to work in partnership with your armed forces here to develop interoperability."
Asked whether the months remaining until the November 2002 NATO Summit in Prague are enough for Bulgaria to prepare for membership, Pace said: "My personal experience here in the last 24 hours is that your civilian and military leadership have the commitment to allocate the resources to transform and to be prepared for that summit. I have been very impressed by what I have seen and heard."
"The decision about NATO membership is going to be made by politicians. [. . .] Regardless of the political decisions, my commitment to you and to General Mihov is that we will continue to work together to find ways that serve both our countries' interests into the future," Pace further said.
Mihov declined to comment on a draft change in the Defence and Armed Forces Act, which stipulates a lower retirement age for high-ranking officers. "I hope that everything that is reasonable and useful for the army will pass in Parliament," Mihov said.
US-BULGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER-COLIN POWELL.
Bulgarian Foreign Minister Passy Meets US Secretary of State Colin Powell.
Washington, March 13 (BTA spec. corr. Roumyana Kinkina) - Foreign Minister Solomon Passy met Wednesday US Secretary of State Colin Powell.
The meeting discussed a number of issues, including NATO enlargement, the fight against terrorism and Balkan developments, the Bulgarian Foreign Minister said after the meeting.
Colin Powell thanked Bulgaria for its vote in support of the Middle East resolution in the UN Security Council. Passy noted that Bulgaria contributed to the almost unanimous adoption of the resolution - only Syria abstained from supporting it.
According to Passy, Colin Powell is well-informed of the situation in Bulgaria.
Passy said that the US Secretary of State shares the view of the Bulgarian Government that "we have made progress in the preparations" for NATO membership.
Colin Powell gave a clear signal on NATO enlargement and cited US President George Bush who declared himself for an expansive enlargement of the Alliance, the Bulgarian Foreign Minister also said. He added, however, that his meeting with Powell was "not the place" to discuss the candidatures of concrete states.
Powell and Passy also discussed regional cooperation in the Balkans and the 2 + 2 formula expressing Turkey and Greece's support for Bulgaria and Romania's membership in NATO. The US Secretary of State assessed in positive terms the proposal of Athens, Ankara, Bucharest and Sofia to use the rapid reaction forces in Plovdiv most rationally in future NATO missions. The Bulgarian Foreign Minister and his US host also discussed the participation of a Bulgarian contingent in Afghanistan. Powell showed a special interest in the Bulgarian military there.
The Bulgarian Foreign Minister presented the US Secretary of State with a list of Bulgaria's achievements in its striving to NATO membership and the tasks to be implemented in the runup to the November 2002 Prague Summit. Powell made no recommendations, as the list showed that Sofia knows what it has to do, Passy said.
Powell presented his Bulgarian guest with his recently published book "My American Journey". Passy told journalists that he first met Colin Powell 11 years ago in Washington when Powell was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the US Armed Forces and Passy deputy in the Grand National Assembly. Following his 30 minute meeting with Colin Powell at the State Department, the Bulgarian Foreign Minister left for Madrid.
US-BULGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER'S VISIT-INTERVIEW.
Skopje, March 13 (BTA) - The World Bank will participate in the construction of a Skopje-Sofia railway and other transport communications between Macedonia and Bulgaria with technical assistance, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Passy says in an interview in "Vecer" of Skopje.
Speaking to the newspaper correspondent in Washington, DC, Passy said he had raised the issue of financing for the railway and other facilities with World Bank representatives. He says "key support for the link-up of the two countries' railways is expected from the EBRD". Success hinges on "the two countries lobbying for the project together", according to Passy.
Asked why he separates Bulgaria and Romania when lobbying for NATO membership after the Vilnius Group of applicant countries decided in Skopje last week they would support one another, Passy says: "Romanian Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana and I have agreed that in statements and lobbying for NATO we will speak on behalf of both countries. We made a historic agreement with Turkey and Greece that they would lobby and support Bulgaria and Romania during their progress to NATO."
As to Macedonia, Bulgaria strongly supports its bid to join NATO when the country meets the requirements, Passy said. He recalled that at the Skopje meeting of the Vilnius Group last week the applicant countries agreed that whatever happened in Prague in November, the new members would continue to support the applicants which did not make it into NATO.
Passy also denies last week's allegations that while in Sofia, NATO Secretary General George Robertson asked him for a military base in Bourgas for an intervention against Iraq. "I read this in your newspaper, but I must say this was never mentioned in the conversation with Robertson," Passy says.
Passy Kissed the Hand of Madeleine Albright.
Advisor of Bush praises Bulgaria for its contribution to combat against terrorism.
Foreign Minister Solomon Passy kissed the hand of Madeleine Albright. They met in Washington to talk about the support of the Bulgarian nomination for NATO. Before that Minister Passy made a detailed report on the requirements for NATO membership that Bulgaria have met so far, before deputy-chief of the US National Security Council, Steve Hudley. The USA wants Bulgaria to become a NATO member, Steve Hudley said at his meeting with Minister Solomon Passy in the White House. The advisor to President George Bush highly apprreciated the efforts of Bulgaria to meet the requirements for NATO membership. Hudley praised Bulgaria for its contribution to the international anti-terror coalition. In his report Passy placed the accent on the military reform, internal stabilization, anti-corruption laws and the classified information.
Bulgarian Foreign Minister put the stress on the measures against terrorism and participation of BG intelligence services in the disclosure of bank accounts of possible 'al-Qaeda' members.
Passy Made Albright Take off Her Brooch.
Yesterday in Washington Minister Solomon Passy presented to Madeleine Albright the honorable sign of the BG Foreign Ministry. When No.1 Bulgarian Diplomat wanted to pin the Gold Laurel Branch on her lapel, Mrs. Albright took off the brooch she was wearing to allow for the new gift. Madeleine Albright is famous for her telltale brooches, which reportedly betray her emotions. "Read her brooches, not her lips", knowledgeable people say.
Professor to Replace Elka as Committee's Chairman.
Professor dermatologist Dr Assen Durmishev to become the chairman of the Educational Committee in Elka Anastassova's stead, the NMS PG decided yesterday. Surgeon Dr Stamen Stamenov replaced Stella Bankova as the deputy chairman of the Complaints Committee. Nedialko Kanchev was elected to the Health Committee in Nadka Pangarova's stead. Angel Tyurkedjiev will replace her in the Regional Development Committee. Darinka Stancheva was elected to the Euro Integration Committee, replacing Siika Dimovska. Ivan Pavlov replaced Elka Anastassova as a member of the Bulgarian PACE delegation.
King's Deputies Commissioned to Cooperatives.
By the order of the prime-minister, NMS Deputy Chairwoman Vessela Draganova and MP Kosta Tsonev checked up the complaints of two cooperatives against Ivan Ivanov, the District Governor of Dobrich. He was accused of bankrupting the farm cooperative societies in the villages of Pchelarovo and Krapets. The results of the checkup will be submitted to the NMS PG.
Creator of Internet Advises the President.
Creator of the Internet Winton Surf will advise Georgy Parvanov through the Information Technology Council (ITC) to the Presidency set up yesterday. Members of the new consultative body are IMF representative in Sofia Piritta Sorsa and former president of the international Internet society Donald Heat. The ITC will offer expert opinions to the head of state, as well as exchange opinions about the status and perspectives before the Internet. Our aim is to popularize the possibilities for wider spread of the Internet in the country and to encourage the state institutions and the education system in using the Internet, said chairmen of the ITC Veni Markovski.
PM to Take 45 Businessmen to Austria.
Forty five businessmen are included in the delegation, which will accompany the Premier during his official visit to Austria. Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha leaves on a 3-day visit to Vienna on March 20. He will meet Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel, President Thomas Klestil and Parliamentary Chairman Heintz Fischer. The Premier will visit the Bulgarian church - 'St. Ivan of Rila' and will have talks with our compatriots. It will be Radi Naidenov's debut as the new director of the PM's office. Vice-Premier Nikolay Vassilev, Deputy-Foreign Minister Ivan Petkov, Apostol Apostolov - Head of the Privatization Agency and Nikolay Marinov - chairman of the Foreign Investments Agency, will fly to Vienna as well.
Landslide Destroyed House and Killed Man.
Rescuers pulled his wife out of the ruins.
66-year-old man died, while his wife was injured when a landslip destroyed their house in Assenovgrad. Pensioner Angel Angelov was killed in his bed at about 4:30 a. m. Huge stone wall toppled over their house. The wall was built while leveling up a neighboring terrain. The ground began slipping because of the torrential rains in the recent days and the 2-meter high wall toppled over the roof of the house. The rescue teams pulled out his 55-year-old spouse - Kera - half-dead. The woman is hospitalized with severe damages.
Assault against Lawyer Ruined a Block in Sofia.
The bomb was planted for the son of prosecutor and member of the Supreme Judicial Council Bogdan Karayotov.
A bomb planted for a Sofia lawyer ruined a block in the 'Zona B-5' residential district and made the neighbours leave their homes dressed in pyjamas only. The home-made bomb blasted in front of the door of an apartment on the 8 floor in block No 13 at 4.10 a.m. In this flat lives lawyer Stephan Karayotov, son of prosecutor and member of the Supreme Judicial Council Bogdan Karayotov. Policemen cordoned off the area minutes after the blast. Experts from the 'Terror' department of the National Service for Organized Crime Combat came to the scene. At 6.30 a.m. in the morning Chief Secretary of the IM Gen. Boyko Borissov arrived.
Nadezhda Mihailova Formed Shadow Cabinet of Her Own.
Experts and technocrats elected to the National Executive Council (NEC).
Ekaterina Mihailova, Edvin Sougarev, Plamen Oresharski and Vladimir Kisiov are the new UDF deputy chairmen. This decision was taken by the National Council at its first sitting yesterday. At Nadezhda Mihailova's request, the vote was open and by rollcall. All the proposals of the new leader were accepted right away, so the sitting broke the record in briefness. Nikolai Mladenov, unknown to this day Ergin Emin, Dr Vanio Sharkov and Gospodin Tonev were also elected members of the NEC. Peter Stoianovich was elected as the UDF Foreign Affairs Secretary. The NEC structuring resembles a Shadow cabinet, experts elaborated. It comprises financiers, experts in foreign affairs, a doctor and a representative of the ethnic Turks. It is an old parliamentary practice of the conservative parties in West Europe.
Ilcho Dimitrov Passed Away.
Academician Ilcho Dimitrov died yesterday after a short illness. The 71-year-old academician was twice minister of education, rector of the Sofia University and MP. He was a scientist and researcher in the field of the contemporary Bulgarian history, held in respect both in Bulgaria and abroad.
BG to Assemble War-Heads for Russian Missiles.
Russia will resume its deliveries of equipment for modern weapons to the Bulgarian armories either in April or in May. These are war-heads and guidance devices to be assembled only in Bulgaria, Nikola Yankov - deputy-minister of economy, told 'Standart'. Since 2000 they are not imported in Bulgaria because of arrears in license payments and re-export. 'Bulgaria has lost too much when the production was stopped, so it will have the chance to restore its positions, Yankov commented. The agreement was reached during the session of the joint Bulgarian - Russian commission, held on February 21 and 22 in Sofia. The Russian government is expected only to ratify the agreement. Bulgarian armories can already negotiate their licences with Russia without mediators, Yankov added.
INTERIOR MINISTRY - KOSOVO -VISIT.
Sofia, March 13 (BTA) - A delegation of the Bulgarian Interior Ministry, led by Chief Secretary Boiko Borissov and National Police Service Director Vassil Vassilev will be visiting the Bulgarian police contingent in Kosovo on March 16 and 17, the press centre of the Interior Ministry said.
The visit is made on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of Bulgaria participation in the UN peace-keeping operation, the celebrations of Bulgaria's National Day, March 3, and the award of the UN "in the service of peace medal" to 200 Bulgarian policemen.
The programme of the visit envisages meetings with the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Kosovo, Michael Steiner, with KFOR Commander General Marcel Valentin, and representatives of the International Police Headquarters.
N. Vassilev To Invite Buyers for Shipyard.
Vice-Premier Nikolay Vassilev sent a letter to the companies, which have shown interest in the saleoff of the Varna shipyard, he himself said in Varna. As early as Monday, the prestigious marine edition - Lloyd's List, published information about the assets' sale out. I informed them, that the doors were open only for those, who want to build ships,' Vassilev added. Yet, he didn't elaborate on how the candidates would be sifted. To well-informed sources, even intelligence services could be involved in such inspection. Seven aspirants have bought information memo so far.
Balkantourist Paid for 'Perla' Residence.
Balkantourist paid 10.24 million levs yesterday to the Privatization Agency - remainder of the price for 'Intertravelservice' deal, CEO Nely Sandalska said to 'Standart'. Balkantourist bought the venture's assets at a tender, together with former residence 'Perla', for the price of 14.62 million levs. Thirty percent of the price was paid on the day contract was signed.
Record-Breaking Prices for Second Month.
The data of the National Statistics Institute (NSI) show a sharp rise in prices of cigarettes and medicines. In February the cigarettes upped by 21.3 percent. The new higher prices were introduced as early as January, but then cigarettes and medicines could be bought also at the old prices. For the second month in a row the medicines prices are boosting. In January their prices grew by 9.8 percent, while in February - by 8.9%. Thus there's some 20 percent growth for those couple of months. The total inflation in February is again record-breaking, said sources from NSI. It's estimated at 1.6 percent, which is the highest ever rate compared with the same period in the previous four years. For the first two months of this year the rise is 4.4 percent, exceeding the negotiated with the International Monetary Fund for the whole year. According to the agreement with the Fund, the accumulated inflation in 2002 should be 3.5 percent. In February the non-food commodities upped by 4 percent, while foods - by 1%. The litter tax grew most considerably. Its growth in February totals 14 percent, since the people actually start paying now. It is felt most acutely in bigger cities, where the mayors didn't reduce the litter tax.
Nadezhda's Hard Road.
At the 13 National Conference of the UDF Nadezhda Mihailova proved having two virtues: ambition and intuition. She had the ambition to venture upon the leader's post and the intuition to chose the right way to do it. At this conference, several important - both to the UDf and Bulgaria - things happened. The first one was the second censure for the Commander. For the first time it happened at the 11 National Conference in February, 2000. At that time, despite his obvious hints, three fourths of the participants elected Hristo Bisserov as the UDF chief secretary. Now his suggestions concerning Ekaterina Mihailova were rejected once again. The conference's choice was between dialogue and openness, on the one hand, and hatred and fear, on the other. The UDF made its first step towards the return into the orbit of the political normality. Now Nadezhda Mihailova has to cope with one major problem - if and how she would manage to keep the impulse for new policy and new political conduct. To answer this question, she would have to answer two more questions. The first one is how she would manage to shake off the influence of her hitherto party and state leader. For, if Nadezhda Mihailova is not in want of ambition and intuition, Kostov is not in want of obstinacy and crave for avenge. It is Nadezhda who interrupted the line of his policy-making. And the more successful the new policy will be, the greater the lust for revenge. The second issue is the coalition policy, for hardly anyone believes that the UDF will be able to win any general elections and to form a stable cabinet all by themselves.
Trade Unions Took Offence at Shouleva Again.
'Podkrepa' and CITUB felt insulted that they put them together with the small organizations.
A scandal broke between Social Minister Lidiya Shouleva and the biggest trade unions - 'Podkrepa' and CITUB and spoiled the organized round table yesterday. The people of Dr. Zhelyazko Hristov and Dr. Konstantin Trenchev pointedly left the discussion minutes after it started. Vice-PM was late by 30 minutes and made several trade unions wait for her in the NPC. In the meantime her deputy Valery Apostolov opened the discussion on her behalf. We couldn't communicate on this level, vice-president of 'Podkrepa' Dimitar Manolov said. Leader of CITUB Zhelyazko Hristov backed him up. The arrival of Shouleva provoked a second scandal. We couldn't discuss the incomes in a composition like that, the members of the two trade unions were angry and left the hall. They felt insulted by the fact that they were put together with the small trade unions, which didn't take part in the trilateral dialogue and demanded the presence of representatives of the employers' organizations. 97.4% of the trade union members in the country are members of either CITUB or 'Podkrepa', sources from the two trade unions said. I'm shocked by this scandalous behaviour, Lidiya Shouleva said. She accused the two trade unions of being totally intolerable to the civil society. The social dialogue is not only for two trade unions, the Vice-PM said.
MIDDLE EAST - BULGARIA - RESOLUTION.
Bulgaria Supports International Community's Effort for Restoration of Middle East Peace Process.
Sofia, March 13 (BTA) - Bulgaria supports the effort of the international community for the restoration of the Middle East peace process and this country's vote in favour of Resolution 1397 of the UN Security Council demonstrated its traditional constructive position when searching for lasting solutions to crisis situations, says a statement of the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry prompted by the passage of Resolution 1379 by the UN Security Council. The UN document speaks about the existence of two nations, Israel and Palestine.
Resolution 1397 was approved by 14 votes in favour and only one abstention, of Syria, who is a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council.
By supporting the document, Bulgaria also hopes that a resolution which shows the way to negotiations will help end the shedding of blood in the Middle East, all the more so that the content of the document was lauded by both Israel's permanent representative in the UN and Palestine's permanent observer in the Organization, the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry says in the statement.
Taxes Will Be More Fair.
INTERVIEW Standartnews: Gati al-Jiburi
We are preparing tax legislation for 2003, says deputy minister of finance, Gati al-Jiburi.
- Mr. Al-Jiburi, the service workers and craftsmen demand that the patent tax be reduced. Is it possible?
- My policy is to make taxes as simple as possible, not to overcomplicate them. Taxes must be transparent, comprehensible to all and predictable, to give people a chance to plan their tax expenditures. The more complicated the tax system is, the more difficult it is to collect them. Our aim is to simplify all taxes, both as regards their collectability and their calculation.
- Will the dialogue between the Ministry of Finance and big business become more active and meaningful?
- Representatives of big business must realize that working taxation system caters to their interests. Taxes have to replenish the fisc to ensure economic stability. I would like to make tax policy an issue for public debate, before we adopt it as law. However, the final decision will be taken by the minister of finance, Council of Ministers and the parliament.
- Will you pursue the policy of harmonization between the BG tax rates and those accepted in the EU?
- We must strive for harmonization of tax rates, since we have chosen the road to EU integration.
- Do you think that the Bulgarians have realized the importance of tax-paying?
- A more active dialogue with the people is what we need. All interested parties must have clearer understanding of two things. Every case of tax evasion, every hidden lev, aggravates the financial situation in the country and eventually is paid by accurate tax-payers.
Five NMS MPs Wangle People's Vote.
INTERVIEW Standartnews: Nina Tchilova
Their act is highly immoral and shows lack of responsibility for the nation, says Nina Tchilova, MP from NMS.
- Miss Tchilova, how would you comment the demand of five NMS deputies for urgent measures aimed at the improvement of social, economic and financial policy of the government?
- Their motives have nothing to do with reality. These are simply texts copied from the program of the NMS, modifications of its basic ideas and concepts.
- What concrete steps have been taken to implement it so far?
- The ruling majority has done a lot to fulfill the pre-election pledges. The budget we have adopted envisages a 600-million funds increase on the items related to social sphere. We have introduced preferential tax regime which is stimulating not only for foreign investors, but also for the Bulgarian capital, especially in the regions with high unemployment rate. Some weeks ago we adopted the new Privatization Act.
- To your mind, what are the reasons for the attacks?
- The people are wise enough, they understand that several months in power do not suffice to restore something that has been destroyed for 12 years. I think that one of the reasons is poor media communication with the society, as well as public political speculations of other political forces. It's intolerable for a chairwoman of the parliamentary commission on education - which post Mrs. Elka Atanassova holds - to hide away and be idle when the schoolchildren went on strike because of the school-leaving exams.
- What are you going to do with the resignations of the five splintered NMS members?
- In our Constitution there is no article that envisages recanting of the MPs. For this reason we cant actually "recant" them from the parliament. However, the truth is that the vote on June 17 was a majority vote, i.e. people cast their votes not for some personal qualities or high public rating of Nina Tchilova or any other colleague. They voted for Premier Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Having this in mind, their act may be qualified as highly immoral, it shows lack of responsibility for the nation. Because all they have done was aimed at the destabilization of our parliamentary group and the government. Actually they wangle the results of the people's vote. They became the MPs only thanks to Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, vouching for the principles and ideas proclaimed in his Declaration of April 6. Handing in their resignations and leaving the NMS parliamentary group, they distanced themselves from the program of the ruling majority and the scale of values which brought the NMS to power.