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President Georgi Parvanov had dinner with the editors-in-chief and owners of the big newspapers in Bulgaria. The head of state discussed with the members of the Publishers' Union topical issues of Bulgarian politics at the "House with The Clock" restaurant. Photo Marina Angelova


Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, who is visiting the US, met with President George W. Bush. Talking to jourtnalists afterwards, the prime minister called the meeting "amiable, sincere and by far exceeding his expectations". Pressphoto BTA Photo: Roumyana Kinkina

Earthquake Disturbs the Balkans.
Reality Macedonia

Skopje, 24.04.2002. (RM) - Substantial earthquake wave hit Skopje a few minutes before 1 pm today (two rounds, one smaller and one large).

Shaking and screeching of taller buildings alerted the residents who gathered outside, filling the sidewalks, remenescing the trauma of the devastating quake in 1963, when over 1,700 citizens of Skopje lost their lives.

13:00 - Right after the earthquake, both regular phone lines and mobile phones fail to perform, probably because of overload: people trying to reach their loved ones. Ground telephone restored around 13:10.

No reports of damages or casualties have come in yet.

Our sources from Sofia, Bulgaria, claim that they felt the same wave there, too.

13:20 - a smaller shake passed through Skopje again.

13:37 - Makfax report just came out:

Skopje, 24.04.2002. (Makfax) A series of quakes struck Macedonia at 12:55 hours. No concrete data have been released so far by Seismology Institute regarding the magnitude of the earthquake.

No reports have been released so far on eventual material damage caused by quakes. The earthquake in Skopje disturbed the local residents. Mobile phone network is out of operation.

13:40 - MIA reported that the earthquake had been felt in Kumanovo and Tetovo as well.

13:45 - new Makfax report:

According to information by Thessaloniki University from Greece, the quake occured at 12:49 and was 5.9 on the Richter scale. 14:15 - Mobile phones work in Skopje.

Dnevnik reported that earthquake's epicenter was near Vitina, in Kosovo. One person died and about a hundred received injuries there.

Richter Magnitude of Earthquake Severity.

Richter Magnitudes Earthquake Effects.

Less than 3.5 Generally not felt, but recorded.

3.5-5.4 Often felt, but rarely causes damage.

Under 6.0 At most slight damage to well-designed buildings. Can cause major damage to poorly constructed buildings over small regions.

6.1-6.9 Can be destructive in areas up to about 100 kilometers across where people live.

7.0-7.9 Major earthquake. Can cause serious damage over larger areas.

8 or greater Great earthquake. Can cause serious damage in areas several hundred kilometers across.

Blockades set by the persons from Albanian nationality in Tetovo crisis region has been removed Wednesday afternoon, MIA's correspondent reports.
Interior Department from Tetovo reports the blockades have thwarted the patrolling of ethnically mixed police teams in the villages comprised with the General Plan.
Public Prosecution Office from Tetovo submitted request to investigation department of the elementary court for conducting an investigation against Raim Sabii, born 1971 in Semsevo, Sadat Samii, born 1971 in Semsevo and Arben Jakupi, born 1976 in Neprosteno due to being suspected of committed crime act, kidnapping. The request among other matters includes that they have committed the act on April 14 when three suspects stopped the vehicle driven by Dusko Simovski, police reservist from Tetovo and mistreated him afterwards.
Interior Department informs criminal charges are to be brought against five other persons.
"Macedonian Army will be prepared to review the possibilities to withdraw from the current positions in Kumanovo Lipkovo crisis region, once the Macedonian police have established round-a-clock security control over the villages in that region," Colonel Blagoja Markovski, Macedonian Army HQ spokesman told MIA, responding to the requests of some local inhabitants for the MA to remove the Army checkpoints along the villages of Nikustak, Ropaljce and Vaksince, allegedly due to unhindered access to their agricultural lands.
As Markovski said, "the situation in the region is not calm yet and the police can not take over the entire security control. Therefore the Army checkpoints will remain where they are."
The villagers threaten to obstruct the police's patrolling in three Lipkovo villages, unless their requests are not fulfilled.
"The Macedonian Army will either take redeployment commands from anyone else, nor will create some kind of a security vacuum that might be taken advantage of by the still present militant forces in the crisis regions," underlined Colonel Markovski.
Ethnic Albanians Block Macedonia Cops.
By KONSTANTIN TESTORIDES, Associated Press Writer
SKOPJE, Macedonia (AP) - Ethnic Albanians set up roadblocks Wednesday to stop multiethnic police patrols from entering 17 villages in a tense northwestern region formerly held by rebels, a government official said.
Angry villagers blocked the main roads around Macedonia's second-largest city of Tetovo, preventing police from reaching eight villages in the area, government spokesman Zoran Tanevski said.
Barricades were also erected near the western town of Gostivar, sealing off nine nearby villages populated by ethnic Albanians, who make up a third of Macedonia's 2 million people.
International observers and Western diplomats criticized the action, calling it a violation of the EU-brokered peace agreement that halted last year's insurgency in the Balkan country.
"Roadblocks are not dialogue they are dead-ends, a waste of time and energy while we are helping Macedonia return to normalcy and relaunch its economy," said Lawrence Butler, the U.S. ambassador in Skopje.
The peace accord envisaged ethnically mixed police units, composed of Macedonians and ethnic Albanian officers, patrolling villages formerly in rebel hands.
But tensions remain high despite efforts to implement the peace deal and the presence of NATO troops and European observers.
The villagers at the roadblocks demanded the release of about a dozen ethnic Albanian prisoners jailed for alleged links to the insurgents, according to Abdulhakim Ademi, a member of a local human rights council.
Under the peace process, parliament adopted an amnesty law for the former rebels, who claimed they were fighting for greater rights for the ethnic Albanian minority. The government also pardoned all ethnic Albanians sentenced during the insurgency on charges of treason, mutiny, armed rebellion and conspiracy against the state.
Ademi told The Associated Press that the villagers were displeased that the "amnesty law was not being properly implemented."
"The roadblocks will remain until we receive strong guarantees, either by international or domestic authorities, that all prisoners will be released," Ademi said.
But Tanevski said that the protesters were demanding the release of prisoners who "had nothing to do with the conflict, even common criminals."
Craig Jeness, head of the Skopje mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said the roadblocks were an "impediment to the peace agreement, and in our view, completely unacceptable."
Since multiethnic patrols began last year, the government has restored authority in about 100 of some 140 villages once under rebel control.

Albanian Ultra-Right Wing Party Openly Advocates Creation of Greater Albania.
Reality Macedonia - MIA


Greater Albania, the final goal of the Albanian terrorists, through occupation of all desired territories. The map in this form was issued by Albanian nationalists of the Alb-net.
Athens, April 24, 2002 (MIA) Athenian radio reported that Albanian Ultra-Right Wing Party for National Unity openly promotes the idea for creation of a state that would include all Albanians, publicly expressing support to so-called NLA in Macedonia, and advocating conquest of parts of northern Greece which it designates by the name of Chemeria.
According to MIA, this still relatively small ultra-right wing party announced close cooperation with the so called ANA, also announcing their need for change of internationally recognized borders in the Balkans, at any price.
According to this party, its priorities include solving the problem of status of Albanians living in the Greek area of Epirus.



Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski, accompanied by Foreign Minister Slobodan Casule, is to set out for China Wednesday in a first official visit, upon an invitation by his Chinese counterpart Jiang Zemin.
Besides his host, Trajkovski is scheduled to meet with Speaker of the Chinese Parliament Li Peng and Prime Minister Zhu Rongji. Trajkovski will also visit several provinces and meet with local highest authorities.
The meetings will focuse on further intensification of the overall relations between Macedonia and China. The efforts of both countries for intensified friendship, mutual support and respect towards the territorial integrity and sovereignty of each country will also be emphasized. Referring to that, several inter-governmental agreements are to be signed between Macedonia and China.



Dean of Military Academy Stojce Deskoski and spokesperson of Macedonian Army Chief of Staff, Colonel Blagoja Markovski announced the enrollment of cadets in 2002/2003 academic year.
Defense Minister Vlado Popovski will additionally determine the number of cadets that will be enrolled this year according to the Army's needs, Markovski informed. He explained that in order to provide increased participation of the ethnic communities in Macedonia, they will consider the statistical data referring to the participation of nationalities in the total population in Macedonia.
"The members of the Albanian ethnicity can apply with at least 60 points, and 23 percent of all enrolled cadets will be Albanians," Markovski said.
Academy's Dean Deskoski informed that in the past years "the percentage of the cadets from the ethnic communities that applied were below than 10 percent."
He emphasized that the cadets should be Macedonian citizens, should have completed secondary education, are not older than 21, they are males, not married, not convicted of any crimes and are not prosecuted. The candidate is also evaluated for admission on the basis of physical aptitude and medical qualification.
High school records and the scores on the qualification exam are some of the criteria that have to be met for admission in the Military Academy.
The application and the medical qualification would be undertaken in the branch units of Defense Ministry by May 10, and afterwards specialist check-ups would follow in the Military Hospital in Skopje and the candidates can apply for the qualification exams on June 25 and 26.
Deskoski stressed that the first officers for the Army graduated from the Military Academy in 1992 and the first text of the Law on Military Academy was developed one decade ago. He pointed out that staff for the Macedonian Air Force has been educated in the Academy since last year. Deskoski informed that the concept "With Science in NATO" was promoted this year within the scientific-research activities.
The tuition and boarding fees are covered by the Defense Ministry.



Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski, Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski, ministers and professors attended Wednesday a celebration of the 10th anniversary of Macedonia's monetary independence.
In his address at the ceremony, Ljube Trpeski, Governor of the National bank of Macedonia (NBM), referred to the course of monetary independence and the establishment of domestic currency.
"Macedonia is one of the transition countries that has most intensive relations with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. The arrangements with these financial institutions have solved the problems with deficit of the balance pf payments in the recent years. In addition, they have assisted to Macedonia to service US$ 713,8 million of its foreign debt," Trpeski said.
Referring to most significant results of NBM in the last ten years, Trpevski mentioned the domestic currency stability, constant growth of the foreign exchange reserves and the NBM supervision of the banking system.
"The increased interest of foreign investors to become part of the Macedonia's banking system presents a proof for reliable work of the banks," Trpeski said.
"The idea to promote the Macedonian currency besides the Macedonian state was announced by VMRO-DPMNE in 1990,"Georgievski told journalists at the celebration of the 10th anniversary since the Macedonian monetary independence.
Georgievski, reminding that Macedonia fought in the last decade to prove that it can have its own economy and own currency, expressed his assurance that in the next decade there will be a fight to "cancel the own currency, to enter in the European Union and to accept the new currency - Euro."
Regarding the anniversary, NBM published two booklets on "Creation of the Macedonian Denar" and "Macedonian Banknotes and Coins - 1992-2002".

Earthquake Strikes Some 130 km SW of Sofia, Measures 5.3 on Richter Scale.
Sofia, April 24 (BTA) - An earthquake epicentred some 130 km south-west of Sofia outside Bulgarian territory was felt in Bulgaria on Wednesday afternoon, the Civil Defence Agency and the Seismological Centre with the Geophysics Institute of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences said.
The quake struck at 1.52 p.m. and measured about 5.3 points on the Richter scale, according to preliminary data.
The Kozloduy nuclear power plant said the quake was not felt there and the area remained calm.
The earthquake was felt more tangibly in Southwestern Bulgaria, according to correspondents.
Moderate earthquake rattles central Balkans.


GNJILANE, Yugoslavia - An earthquake jolted areas throughout the central Balkans on Wednesday, killing one and leaving about 100 injured in Kosovo.

The quake's preliminary magnitude was measured at 5.1, with its epicenter some 280 kilometers (175 miles) south of Belgrade, near the town of Vitina in the southern province of Kosovo, said Slavica Radulovic, an official with the Seismological Institute of Serbia. The earthquake was first felt at 12:50 p.m. (1050GMT).

In Gnjilane, some 30 kilometers (20 miles) east of Pristina, one man was killed and about 100 people were injured by flying glass, a doctor on the scene told an Associated Press Television News reporter. The victim was identified as Isuf Bicku, a 42-year-old barber.

The minaret of the town's mosque collapsed and many buildings were seriously damaged, witness said.

An apparent aftershock hit Kosovo's capital, Pristina, just past 13:00 p.m. (1100GMT), with people rushing to leave buildings and apartments. In southern Serbia, in the cities of Vranje, Presevo and Bujanovac, locals also ran out of buildings as the quake lasted for about 40 seconds, toppling several chimneys.

Across the border to the south, in the Macedonian capital, Skopje, hundreds left buildings in panic and waited on the city's streets for almost two hours as a series of aftershocks followed.

Since a devastating earthquake in 1963 killed 1,072 people in Skopje, buildings in the region have been constructed to withstand some degree of shaking.

Areas in western and central Bulgaria were also hit, but no damage was reported there.
Bulgaria's PM Received at the White House.
Bulgaria's Prime-minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was receive into the White House by US President G. W. Bush yesterday night. Secretary of State Colin Powell also attended the meeting. Representatives of more than 15 leading US companies in the branches of energy production, defense industry, high technologies, software and tobacco industry conferred with Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha at a working breakfast at the US Chamber of Commerce yesterday. The event marked the beginning of the second day of the working visit of the Bulgarian Prime Minister to USA at the invitation of the President Bush. Managers of leading companies like Westinghouse, AES Corporation, Lockheed Martin, JP Morgan, and Philip Morris showed high interest in the Bulgarian Government policy in high technologies, information systems and energy production. Special attention was paid on issues concerning legislation in Bulgaria, anti-corruption bills and land ownership. The Prime Minister informed those who were present with the government's middle term and strategic plans in those branches of industry. The US business representatives insisted on Bulgaria's Prime Minister main message to USA in relation to the country's expectations for a positive consideration of its NATO membership application in the autumn of the present year. Bulgaria is a serious US ally in the war on terrorism, emphasized Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. He added that the country's efforts are targeted at the fulfilling of its engagements to NATO and that he expects its application to be considered as one of an ally state, which contributes to the Alliance's security. In his final statement the Vice President of the US Chamber of Commerce Greg Lebedev praised the temperate and sensible attitude concerning the fulfillment of the government's program expressed by the Bulgarian Prime Minister. He declared that he was deeply impressed by the good work of the young expert team of the Cabinet. At the invitation of the Heritage Foundation, Bulgarian Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg delivered a lecture entitled 'NATO's enlargement in Southeast Europe: the American interest'. In it the Bulgarian Prime Minister repeated Bulgaria's will to receive an invitation to NATO membership at the summit in Prague in the context of President's Bush stated vision for the Alliance's enlargement from the Baltic sea to the Black sea. Simeon Saxe-Coburg pointed out that our country is acting as a 'de facto' America's ally as in the operation in Afghanistan as in the KFOR and SFOR missions in Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina before that. The permanent engagement of Bulgaria in the region releases NATO's capacities, which can be used for other purposes in the antiterrorist campaign. The Prime Minister paid special attention on the 2+2 dialogue between Bulgaria and Rumania on one side and Turkey and Greece on the other as well as on the Bulgarian contribution to the regional stability in Southeast Europe. Paraphrasing the motto of the Heritage Foundation the Prime concluded that NATO's enlargement to southeast is equal to the establishing of a region with freedom, prosperity and civil society. The guests included a representative of the President's administration, of the US Congress, of NGO's and of the diplomatic corps. Simeon also met his friend Morocco's King Mohammed VI, also invited by President Bush. The two of them conversed in the Blair House residence, in which the African Monarch stayed.
Bush/Saxe-Coburg-Gotha Meeting Is "Very Strong Trump Card" for NATO Membership, Foreign Minister Says.
Sofia, April 24 (BTA) - "An extremely successful meeting which won very high marks from both sides, and a very strong trump card in favour of Bulgaria's bid for NATO membership" - such was the assessment of the April 23 talk between Bulgarian Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and US President George W. Bush, expressed by Foreign Minister Solomon Passy on April 24.

Passy made the comment for National Radio by telephone from Brussels, where he and Defence Minister Nikolai Svinarov are attending a '19 plus 1' meeting of the North Atlantic Council. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister is on a working visit to the US at the invitation of President Bush.

After the Prime Minister's talk with the US President, "Bulgaria's drive for NATO membership entered a new stage," Passy said. "President Bush's support is more than obvious."

"Bush gave very high assessment to the performance of the Prime Minister, his government and the entire nation on the track towards NATO," Passy said.

According to the Foreign Minister, the North Atlantic Council's reaction to the Bulgarian report on April 23 was "more than good - very positive indeed."

In particular, the Council appreciates the legislative measures taken by Bulgaria. The NATO officials praised the law on the protection of classified information, he said. "The law is really flawless; what remains to be done is to apply it."

"In many ways, this law even surpasses NATO standards because it incorporates the experience of countries such as NATO's new members Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, which have faced problems similar to those experienced by Bulgaria," Passy said.

Brussels appreciates the fact that the Bulgarian authorities are aware of the current problems and have an action plan for coping with the challenges. "We get whatever support we need," Passy said.

The negotiations on Bulgaria's accession to the European Union are "proceeding at a remarkable pace," he said.

Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha Discusses Bulgaria's NATO Membership Bid with US Congressmen.

Washington, April 24 (BTA special correspondent Roumyana Kinkina) - The issue of former State Security records was not raised at any of Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha's meetings in Washington, the Bulgarian government leader told journalists.

"State Security records are a matter apart. They are not interested in them. It is classified documents that are connected with NATO: we must be very careful about this matter," Saxe-Coburg-Gotha said after meeting with House representatives.

The Bulgarian prime minister talked with senators from the Committee on Foreign Relations, House Speaker Dennis Hastert and other congressmen.
The prime minister heard many positive views on Bulgaria, even more than he expected.

"I feel that not only are we strongly supported, but that there is the conviction that we are on the right track," Saxe-Coburg-Gotha said. The congressmen recommended that Bulgaria should continue working, and that it should carry on reforms even after a possible invitation to join NATO.

Asked what could stand in the way of Bulgaria's NATO membership, Saxe-Coburg-Gotha said: "Only if we fail to do our job."

The prime minister described as "rather emotional" Tuesday's statement by Abraham Foxman, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, who called on Bulgaria to vote against some UN Security Council resolutions and support Israel. Foxman survived the Nazi death camps. "He is a very interesting person and I was much impressed by him," Saxe-Coburg-Gotha said.

The Bulgarian prime minister will dine at Ambassador Elena Poptodorova's residence with senators, congressmen and senior administration representatives on Wednesday evening.

George Bush Encourages Bulgaria to Continue Preparation for NATO Membership.

Washington D.C., April 24 (BTA special correspondent Roumyana Kinkina) - US President George W. Bush on Tuesday encouraged Bulgaria to carry on with all aspects of its preparation for NATO membership in the run-up to the Alliance's November Summit in Prague, Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha said.

The Prime Minister gave a news briefing after a half-hour meeting with President Bush in the White House Oval Office.

"The President encouraged us to be very persistent in our efforts until the last minute. I think this is what we really need to do," Saxe-Coburg-Gotha said.
The Prime Minister started a working visit to the United States on Saturday, April 20 at the invitation of President Bush.

"It was a wonderful and very rewarding meeting which proceeded in a cordial and straightforward manner. It exceeded my expectations by far, and I feel very grateful for that," the Prime Minister said.

He said that the meeting left him "more optimistic than before" regarding Bulgaria's prospects for NATO membership.

"I think President Bush is well disposed and supporting towards Bulgaria's membership bid," he said.

Asked whether the US President had expressed his opinion about Bulgaria's chances of obtaining a NATO membership invitation in Prague in November, Saxe-Coburg-Gotha said: "No, it would not have been fair of me to ask him about that, nor would it have been fair of him to bring it up, considering that there are so many other candidate countries."

The meeting was also attended by Secretary of State Colin Powell, President Bush's National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, National Security Council Senior Director for European and Eurasian Affairs Daniel Fried, Vice President Richard Cheney's advisor Eric Edelman, US Ambassador to Bulgaria James Pardew, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, and the President's Chief of Staff Andrew Card.

The Bulgarian side included all members of the official delegation and Bulgarian Ambassador to the US Elena Poptodorova.

Prime Minister Saxe-Coburg-Gotha did not hold a one-to-one talk with President Bush. According to the Prime Minister, no such talk had been planned.

Asked to assess the importance of his meeting with the President, Saxe-Coburg-Gotha said: "The fact that the President conferred with me at a scheduled meeting shows that he is not unconcerned about Bulgaria, and I am proud of that."

The Middle East crisis also featured on the agenda of the talk, but Bulgaria was not mentioned in this context.

Asked whether Russia was among the topics discussed with the US side, Saxe-Coburg-Gotha said: "Not with the President."

The Prime Minister was asked to elaborate on the reasons for the positive change in Washington's approach towards Bulgaria in the wake of Ivan Kostov's visit to the US as prime minister a year ago. "Such changes are always propelled by various factors. International developments as well as Bulgaria's progress towards NATO membership and in domestic reforms have perhaps all contributed to this. Who is the prime minister is not the most essential thing," Saxe-Coburg-Gotha said.

Concerning the two sides' assessment of the current degree of cohesion of interests, the Prime Minister said the key considerations in this context are the fight against terrorism and Bulgaria's ambition to join NATO.

Saxe-Coburg-Gotha said he had conveyed a message by President Georgi Purvanov to President Bush.
The Prime Minister presented his host with an icon of St George the Victorious on the occasion of the religious festival on April 23.
Bulgaria outlines bid for NATO.
Washington Times
By Nicholas Kralev
The prime minister of Bulgaria, a NATO aspirant whose chances have been boosted by the war on terrorism, told President Bush yesterday that he feared an anti-Western backlash if his nation fails to win admission to the alliance.
Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, the first ex-monarch in the world to hold an elective office, also presented to Mr. Bush an action plan of economic and military reforms his government intends to implement to secure an invitation at NATO's upcoming summit in Prague.
"We are working hard and are fully committed to becoming a NATO member," Mr. Saxe-Coburg told reporters during his four-day official visit to Washington. "We are a country of peace with all its neighbors that has contributed to stability in Southeast Europe."
He said Bulgaria acted as a de-facto member of the alliance during its 1999 war against Serbia over Kosovo and especially in the anti-terrorist campaign.
During both conflicts, the Balkan country opened its airspace to NATO aircraft. Since the operation in Afghanistan began last fall, U.S. planes have been using a Bulgarian air base on the Black Sea coast.
The prime minister said about 70 percent of his people favor NATO membership, the largest approval rating the alliance has in the nine applicant nations.
But he warned of a "big disappointment" if Bulgaria's candidacy is rejected that "could turn into a nationalistic backlash" and damage his government's efforts to Westernize and democratize the nation of 8.5 million.
"Some may even say that our relationship with the East is more reasonable, as in the old days of communism," he said, referring to Bulgaria's 45-year loyalty to the former Soviet Union.
The Western alliance is poised to take in as many as seven new members in Prague. The Bush administration has said it is committed to a large expansion, from the Baltic to the Black Sea, although it has refrained from naming specific candidates.
But at a meeting of the applicants in Bucharest, the Romanian capital, last month, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage gave the first public boost to Bulgaria and Romania.
Mr. Saxe-Coburg said yesterday either of those countries alone "can't serve the purpose of closing NATO's southeast flank." He noted that Greece and Turkey have been very supportive of Bulgaria's and Romania's bids because they would feel "less isolated" once the two former communist countries become members.
In addition to bringing security and stability, he said NATO membership would considerably increase foreign investment in Bulgaria, as happened in Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic after they were invited in 1997 and especially after they joined two years later.
Bulgaria received a positive assessment of its determination to fulfill NATO's recommendations, which was formally handed to the foreign and defense ministers at the alliance's Brussels headquarters yesterday.
Mr. Saxe-Coburg, the child-king whom Bulgaria's communists expelled in 1946 at age 9, returned to his country's political life a year ago and became prime minister in July after his newly formed party won a general election.

Bulgarian Foreign Ministers Pays Visit to Canada Sofia, April 24 (BTA) - Foreign Minister Solomon Passy is on an a visit to Canada in April 24-27. The chief aims of the visit are enlisting Canadas support for Bulgarias bid to join NATO and expanding bilateral political relations, the press office of the Foreign Ministry said.
This is the first visit of a Bulgarian foreign minister to Canada after the two countries established diplomatic relations in 1966.
Passy will confer with Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Bill Graham, Defence Minister Arthur Eggleton, Speaker of the House of Commons in the Canadian Parliament Peter Milliken, Chairperson of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs and International Trade Committee Jean Augustine and head of the Canadian delegation with NATOs Parliamentary Assembly Caroline Parish.
Defence Minister Nikolai Svinarov paid a visit to Canada in April 10 to 12.
"Minister Svinarov and I coordinated our visits to Canada so as to attract the countrys support for Bulgarias membership in NATO," Passy told the Bulgarian National Radio. Recent visits to Canada of Bulgarian statesmen include the visit in May 1998 of the then National Assembly chairman Yordan Sokolov, of former industry minister Alexander Bozhkov who conferred with his Canadian counterpart John Manley in 1998, and the unofficial visit of former president Peter Stoyanov to Toronto where he received the annual award of the Legal Initiative for Central and Eastern Europe of the American Bar Association.
Two-way trade between Bulgaria and Canada in 2001 stood at 41.2 million US dollars, with imports to Bulgaria totalling 22.2 million dollars and exports to Canada, 19.1 million dollars.
NMS Mad at Sociologists.
Pavlina Zhivkova
King's party is waiting for Simeon to say who of the nominees should be backed at the runoffs.
MPs from the NMS accused sociologists for the failure of the nominees for mayors backed by the King's Movement. To Snezhana Grozdilova, NMS PG deputy chairwoman, sociologists forecast a turnout of 35 percent, but actually it was much smaller. The King's people are still fighting over whom to back at the runoffs in Rousse and Blagoevgrad on Saturday. "We'll wait for Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to formulate our stand on the runoffs in the two towns," sources form the NMS leadership said.
Import of Cheap Limos Stopped.
Over 50,000 posh cars are registered as property of physically handicapped people.
The state put an end to crooked dealings with powerful motor vehicles which were registered as property of disabled people, to evade VAT payment. On Thursday the cabinet changed the import regulations. Now physically handicapped people will not be able to import cars with engine's capacity over 1,800 cubic meters and over 100 h. p. During the last year only half of the 100 thousand imported cars in Bulggaria were registered as property of the disabled people. Usually these people receive $ 300-500 in cash for the right to use their name when a deluxe vehicle is imported to Bulgaria. Statistical data shows that physically handicapped people in the country "give preference" to Mercedes, BMWs and Audis.
Gen. Borissov Mad at Deputy Ministers.
Stefan Tashev
from the Interior Ministry. The Chief Secretary complained that two of the IM superior officers rejected his idea to put in the Ministry's lobby a monument to the policemen who perished in duty status. Deputy ministers Boiko Kotsev and Tanyo Zheleztchev offered the strongest opposition, Borissov said. They explained to me that there was no room in the lobby and the Ministry had no funds for the monument, he added. Gen. Borissov and Interior Minister Georgi Petkanov yesterday opened a memorial plaque to their colleagues who were killed on duty. The plaque was designed by sculptor Stavry Kalinov. All heads of the national services of the Interior Ministry and the relatives of the perished officers came to commemorate them. From 1970, 30 policemen were killed in duty status.
Semerdziev Attacks Health Insurance Fund in the Rear.
Neika Krasteva
The investigation against him is not over, but all pretend it doesn't exist
It sounds incredible, but all of a sudden Ilko Semerdziev became a member of the Managing Board of the Health Insurance Fund. No one utters a word about the fact that he is being investigated for the scandalous contract with the Aremis Soft company. More than that - rumors are spread in the Fund that the investigation has been stopped. The Prosecutors Office flatly denied this before "Standart". The Fund's Managing Board consists of 9 members. The fact that Ilko Semerdzhiev joined it is not decisive but quite symptomatic, admitted to "Standart" the Fund's administration. The first thing he did was to drain millions from the Fund's state subsidies, foreign credits and health insurance contributions for the building of 26 deluxe offices of the Fund throughout the country. Over 52 million levs were pored into the project. Part of the money has been swallowed by the consulting and construction firms close to the UDF government. At the end of 1999, Ilko Semerdziev signed a contract with the Aremis Soft company on the design of an IT system for the Fund. This has been done without any contest and in violation of the Public Procurement Act. The news came from Wall Street and "The New York Times". Thus we have learnt that the deal was worth $ 37,5 million. Before the fall of the UDF government legal procedure was started against Ilko Semerdziev for the deal with the Aremis Soft. Be as it may, but Semerdziev will do what he can. Not for the future of the Fund, though, but to cover up the past deals from the time when he was its director.
90 % of Nation Lives under Stress.
Around 90 percent of Bulgarians suffer from stress, every second complains of chronic fatigue syndrome. Because of the stressful everyday life Bulgaria tops the world's frequency charts as regards heart attacks, cerebral insults, high blood pressure and cancer, said MD Ivan Vitkov, psychotherapist from the "Bulgaria" Medical Association. To get rid of anxiety many people resort to alcohol, cigarettes and drugs.
27,000 Policemen Will Guard the Pope.
All police forces in the country, some 27,000, will be mobilized to ensure security during the Pope's visit and the parliamentary assembly of NATO, said yesterday Gen. Vassil Vassilev, Director of the National Police Service. In Sofia only 4,000-5,000 policemen will secure the public order. Reinforcement will come from the regional divisions of the Interior Ministry. All leaves in the police will be suspended.

Law Suits for Money Laundry Sluggish.
INTERVIEW Standartnews: Vassil Kirov


Vassil Kirov was born on August 2, 1963. He graduated from Sofia University in 1987 as a Master of Law. From 1999 he has been working for the Ministry of Finance. In 2001 Vassil Kirov took the post of the deputy director in the Financial Intelligence Bureau (FIB) and became it's head in 2002. He teaches constitutional law in Sofia University and is fluent in English and Russian.

Lawyers will report if doubts arise about shady deals, says Vassil Kirov.

- Mr. Kirov, what will be the new authorities of the Financial Intelligence Bureau (FIB) after the changes in legislation caused by the combat against terrorism?

- It is envisaged that we shall gather additional information from people liable under the Measures against Money Laundry Act. They will inform FIB about the financial operations and deals which may raise suspicion as being connected with the financing of terrorist activity. The bills on measures against financing terrorist activity envisage that the Director of FIB will provide the information gathered to the Minister of Finance who will take relevant measures.

- According to the Directives of the EU, the lawyers are supposed to provide information to FIB. Will this requirement apply to Bulgaria?

- The obligations related to the provision of information to FIB will be reduced to legal advice on financial matters when a lawyer acts as a financial agent.

- Why no one has been sentenced for money laundry in Bulgaria? - It is very difficult for the court to prove that the money is dirty and to pass the verdict on the basis of the acting Penal Code. Sometimes it is difficult to provide documentary evidence that will enable the court to pronounce a sentence even for obvious things. Coordination between the institutions is another problem. Cooperation between FIB and police are not efficient enough. The third problem is related to the acting legislation. The exchange of operative information between FIB and Interior Ministry divisions leaves much to be desired. Hopefully, the legislative changes which are being prepared now will change the situation for the better.

Stefan Kioutchukov

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