HIV Expert Luc Montaigner Asked to Speak in HIV Trial against Bulgarian Medics.
Bucharest, March 26 (BTA spec. cor. Petko Azmanov) - Luc Montaigner, the discoverer of the AIDS virus, has been recruited as an expert in the Tripoli trial against six Bulgarian medical workers, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Passi told the press in Bucharest where he is for a meeting of the Vilnius Group of NATO applicants.
Passi heard the news over the phone from Seif al-Islam al-Qaddafi, the President of the Qaddafi Foundation.
Five Bulgarian nurses and a doctor are charged with intentional infection of 393 Libyan children with the HIV virus.
Seif al-Islam, whose foundation got involved in the trial against the Bulgarians as an observer last year, had invited the world-famous researcher to help unveil the truth in the case.
The Bulgarian defendants' Libyan lawyer Osman Bizanti has repeatedly asked the court to take into consideration the opinion of Luc Montaigner and Geneva-based virologist Luc Perrin whose clinic diagnosed some of the infected Libyan children.
The Libyan People's Court which has so far tried the case, refused to admit foreign experts' opinion.
At its February 17 session, the court dropped the conspiracy charges against the Bulgarians - the six were charged, among other things, of conspiring against Libya - and handed over the case to an ordinary court.
The Bulgarians' previous Bulgarian lawyer, Vladimir Sheitanov, commented for BTA over the phone that if scholars of world renown such as Luc Montaigner are admitted to the courtroom, it will be proven that failures in the health care system rather than the Bulgarian medics are responsible for the infection.
The husband of one of the accused nurses Nassya Nenova, Ivan Nenov, said they expected this development. Now he hopes for a favourable outcome.
The new Bulgarian lawyer of the Bulgarian medics, Plamen Yalnuzov, declined comment.
On March 22 the six Bulgarians withdrew by written declaration the power of attorney of Sheitanov and authorized Sofia-based Yalnuzov to represent them.
Bucharest, March 26 (BTA spec. cor. Petko Azmanov) - More than any other region in Europe, Southeastern Europe holds the key to counteracting new threats to European security and to the hope for a more peaceful and safe future, says a declaration of the prime ministers of the ten countries making up the Vilnius Group of NATO applicants. The prime ministers of Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia adopted the declaration at the end of their meeting in the Romanian capital Tuesday.
"This is why we believe that there should be a southward component of the enlargement decision expected from the Prague Summit, and a commitment of NATO, the European Union and the Vilnius [Group] democracies to recovery and integration of the Balkan countries," the prime ministerial declaration goes.
The ten government leaders further hail the joint statement from Istanbul, February 13, of the foreign ministers of Turkey, Romania, Greece and Bulgaria, and pledge support for it describing the document as "an important step in the Southeastern Europe project".
BUCHAREST-VILNIUS GROUP-BULGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER.
Sofia, March 26 (BTA) - The meeting of the government leaders of the Vilnius Group countries brought Bulgaria closer to NATO membership, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Passy said upon his return form Romania where, together with Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, he attended the NATO applicants' forum.
Passy described the meeting as very successful. He stressed US Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage's statement that the U.S. will insist on the largest possible NATO enlargement at the Prague Summit. Armitage encouraged Bulgaria and Romania in particular in their progress for NATO membership, said Passy.
The Bulgarian foreign minister also noted the letter to Romanian Prime Minister Adrian Nastase from Senators Tom Daschle and Trent Lott stressing the support of both Republicans and Democrats for NATO's southward enlargement.
Passy recalled that at a meeting within the forum Armitage assured Saxe-Coburg-Gotha that US President George W. Bush and State Secretary Colin Powell are looking forward to meeting the Bulgarian prime minister. This is a clear and categoric recognition of Bulgaria's success in the past seven months, said Passy.
Russian company to modernize Bulgarian fighter aircraft.
SOFIA, Bulgaria - In an effort to meet NATO military standards, Bulgaria on Tuesday signed a contract with a Russian company to repair and upgrade 20 MiG-29 tactical fighter planes.
The company, MiG Corporation, won an international tender for the contract to restore the Russian-built MiG plans. The company is charged with repairing the planes' airframes, engines and some component parts, and with modernizing the avionics.
Defense Minister Nikolai Svinarov said that since Russia does not belong to NATO, a separate subcontractor will also be hired to make additional upgrades to meet alliance standards. Twelve companies are currently vying for that contract.
Only three of Bulgaria's Mig-29s are in working condition due to a lack of spare parts. The country's 235-plane air force also includes older Soviet-made MiG-23, MiG-21 and Su-25 fighters.
Earlier plans to meet NATO requirements by replacing the fleet of MiG-29s with U.S.-made F-16 fighters were dropped because the cash-strapped country could not afford the cost.
Svinarov refused to reveal the price of the deal with the Russian company.
NATO's supreme commander in Europe, U.S. Gen. Joseph Ralston, said last week that alliance members would accept as "an interim decision" Bulgaria's plans to adapt its jet fighters to NATO standards instead of immediately replacing them with costly western planes.
Bulgaria hopes to receive an invitation to join NATO at an alliance summit later this year.
Romania and Bulgaria Edge Nearer to NATO Membership.
The New York Times
By STEVEN ERLANGER
BUCHAREST, Romania, March 25 A year ago, the idea that Romania and Bulgaria might join NATO this autumn in the next round of enlargement seemed laughable, and many thought that the aspirations of the Baltic nations for NATO membership might be held hostage again to relations with Moscow.
But in the aftermath of Sept. 11 and with the war on terrorism, the southern flank of NATO suddenly seems more important, and the domestic blemishes of candidate countries like Romania less important.
President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has apparently decided not to make too big a fuss over Baltic memberships in return for more influence with NATO, a better relationship with the United States and a freer hand in Chechnya, Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia.
The prime ministers of 10 NATO candidate countries are meeting here in another joint effort to press their case. They are receiving warm messages of general support from President Bush and from Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage, who came here to demonstrate the American commitment to enlargement.
The Bush administration, concentrating on the larger war in Afghanistan and beyond, sees the chance to make the NATO summit meeting in Prague in November a celebration of European unity and of completing the current plans for NATO enlargement, by taking in up to seven countries Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria.
Three other countries represented here Albania, Macedonia and Croatia are considered to have little chance of being offered NATO membership in this round.
Bush officials stress that no final decision on American preferences is likely until late September because of the election planned for Slovakia, where Vladimir Meciar, a strong nationalist, could return to power, once again undermining its chances of joining NATO.
Mr. Armitage, in an interview here today, praised Romania's and Bulgaria's quick efforts to help the United States and NATO after Sept. 11. He noted that Bulgaria has allowed American tanker planes and some 200 American soldiers to use an air base at Burgas while Romania sent troops to take part in the Afghan peacekeeping force in Kabul.
"Sept. 11 had a riveting effect on NATO and applicant countries," Mr. Armitage said. "A lot stepped up to the plate."
The Bulgarian foreign minister, Solomon Passy, noted that his government had never before allowed a foreign country to use its air bases, "not even the Soviet Union," and that the Bulgarian Parliament had declared itself, after Sept. 11, a "de facto ally of NATO."
The Romanian foreign minister, Mircea Geoana, said his country and Bulgaria were now seen as increasingly important to stabilize the Balkans, to fill the hole in NATO between Hungary and Turkey (itself more important after Sept. 11), to be in a better position to protect oil pipelines and to serve as a kind of bridge to Central Asian states like Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.
"It is an important challenge to the West to assist in the creation of moderate Muslim nations in Central Asia," Mr. Geoana said. "We also can help stabilize this arch of instability in the south for a NATO that is already more global." He, too, stressed Romania's support for American leadership in NATO.
Mr. Armitage said all the candidate countries would be required to continue the "heavy lifting" required to meet NATO standards, even after possible entrance, and to keep reforming and democratizing their governments and economies.
Orders from India, U.S., Britain underpin recovery of Bulgarian arms industry.
SOFIA, Bulgaria - Indian, U.S. and British demand for Bulgarian weapons is underpinning a recent recovery of this country's long-ailing arms industry, officials said Tuesday.
Arms exports in the second half of 2001 amounted to dlrs 200 million equal to the previous year's total, said Vladimir Velichkov, secretary of the state's watchdog commission on arms exports.
Velichkov said India was the largest buyer of Bulgarian weapons, but that South America was also "a promising market."
He refused to reveal the total amount of exports in 2001, but noted that they had been brought to a virtual standstill in the first half of the year.
Officials refused to divulge what kind of weapons were being exported.
However, he noted that the United States has purchased weapons from Arsenal, a small arms and munitions company in the town of Kazanlak, 250 kilometers (156 miles) east of Sofia.
Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Vasilev said stringent government controls had prevented any Bulgarian arms from reaching rogue states.
Despite the recovery, the Bulgarian defense industry was still far behind its Cold War export levels, which reached up to dlrs 800 million per year. Jobs in the industry have dwindled to some 20,000 down from more than 100,000 in the communist era, Velichkov added.
During the Cold War, Bulgaria exported a variety of weapons including light arms, munitions, and anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles, to other Soviet bloc states and the Middle East.
Last year the United States provided dlrs 400,000 to help Bulgaria modernize its arms industry and bring it up to NATO standards.
Bulgaria hopes to receive an invitation to join NATO at an alliance summit in November.
Strong winds cut electricity to 52 villages and force port closure.
SOFIA, Bulgaria - Strong winds caused power cuts in 52 villages on Tuesday and led authorities to close Bulgaria's largest Black Sea port on Tuesday, civil defense authorities announced.
The winds, gusting at 54 kilometers (34 miles) per hour, led to the closure of the port of Varna, 470 kilometers (295 miles) northeast of Sofia. Rescue ships there were searching for a fishing boat with a three-man crew that was in distress some 45 miles from the shore, officials said.
A French and a Turkish warship on an exercise were also helping in the search, the state BTA news agency said.
The winds blew strongest in northeastern Bulgaria, where they overturned a van with nine passengers on a country road, BTA said. There were no serious injuries.