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Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Passy meets with Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister Merab Antadze (R) to hand him a document notifying the Georgian side that Bulgaria has completed its share of procedures related to the entry into force of a bilateral accord on the exchange of citizen visits. PressPhoto BTA Photo: Aneliya Nikolova
SITUATION IN CRISIS REGIONS.
Occasional shootouts and two blasts have been heard overnight in Tetovo and its surrounding, MIA's correspondent reports.
Police and army sources say burst of fire and sporadic shootouts have been registered from Rasadiste locality, near Tetovo - Popova Sapka road, Teke, Vonvardarska, Drenovec, Ciglana and Kupenik settlements.
Shootouts directed at unknown targets were also heard from the villages of Strimnica, Palatica, Ozorniste, Trebos, Gajre, Mala Recica, Dzepciste, Gjermo, Odri and Prsovce.
Two severe blasts have been heard around 02:00 hours in southwest part of the town. Police sources say blasts came from the area of Kupenik settlements. Team of Police Department in Tetovo works on defining of the location of blasts.
Police seized automatic weapon from Ruzdi Rexhepi who came from the village of Saracino. The weapon is found in Rexhepi's house and criminal charges have been brought against him.
Occasional gunfire was registered Tuesday night in Kumanovo - Lipkovo crisis region, MIA's corespondent reported.
The gunfire came from direction of the villages of Vaksince, Otlja and Matejce.
The mixed police patrols went out Wednesday morning, but it is not certain if the patrolling that was interrupted Monday in Slupcane and other five villages in Lipkovo region will continue. The local population being revolted by the arrest of a resident from Slupcane, did not allowed the police to enter their villages Monday and Tuesday.
22 DECISIONS FOR RETURN OF NATIONALISED PROPERTY HANDED OVER IN BITOLA.
Macedonian Finance Minster Nikola Gruevski handed over 22 decisions for return of denationalised business and residential objects, as well as sites at a formal session in hotel "Epinal" - Bitola Wednesday.
Gruevski expressed his gratitude from the realization of the denationalization process, especially in Bitola, where properties have been returned for the fourth time.
He stressed that "this is a highly complex process, demanding careful action, in order to avoid any mistakes that could easily occur." Gruevski also stated, "the Finance Ministry is ready to start correcting the mistakes that might occur in the denationalization process."
According to the Finance Ministry announcement, the Denationalisation Committee in Bitola, which covers Bitola, Resen and Demir Hisar regions, received around 784 requests for denationalisation, 661 of which have been solved, with 481 requests accepted.
Of the accepted requests, 222 properties have been returned to their owners, while 200 clients are to receive reimbursement, because the return of the property is practically impossible. An agreement has been reached regarding 4 requests as well, while 52 clients are to be reimbursed and their property returned.
With Wednesday's return of 22 properties, the number of realised requests has now approached the century mark.
Macedonian Finance Ministry emphasises that this committee is one of the most successful ones, which is another proof of the intensified activities of the Ministry for swifter and successful implementation of the denationalization process.
STATEMENT OF PRIME MINISTER LJUBCO GEORGIEVSKI.
A six-hour meeting last night confirmed that the Social-Democratic League of Macedonia (SDSM) did not care about anything else but a composition of the electoral commissions, Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco Georgeivski said Wednesday in Prilep.
To a journalist question on yesterday's meeting, also attended by representatives of the international community, Georgeivski said the talks showed that SDSM did not know what kind of election law it wanted.
Domestic and international observers, as well as SDSM leader Branko Crvenkovski were assured that the SDSM demand for the electoral commissions to be elected by a two-third majority could not be met, "as it means anything else but no elections in Macedonia," Georgievski said.
"This is a proof for the SDSM confusion, as it does not know what it likes to gain with this law. I feel that SDSM wishes for the process to fail in order to have an excuse for its defat at the elections," Georgievski said.
If the negotiations on election laws would continue in that manner, the elections in September could be organized according to the old laws, he said.
"We do not object to this solution, and yesterday I have offered it if no agreement is to be reached on the new election laws. By the old laws, large parties may win more seats at the Parliament, while by the new ones, there will be neither big winners nor big losers. VMRO-DPMNE is also ready for elections, organized by the old laws, " Georgievski said.
Asked about revising of the VMRO-DPMNE coalition, since former "commander Leka" (against whom the Interior Ministry brought criminal charges for terrorism) has become chief of the DPA branch in Tetovo, Georgievski said that no party was talking about coalitions in this phase. "The election results will determine the future coalitions," he added.
Commenting a statement by DPA leader Arben Xhaferi that the Ohrid agreement was not sufficient as Macedonia needed more radical transformation, Georgievski said the statement proved that "Albanian extremism in Macedonia did not start a fight for the agreement, but for territories."
"It is proved not only bu such statements, but also by the Kosovo parliament resolution. Such actions generate new, endless destabilization," Georgievski said.
POPOVSKI-RADOJEVIC: BORDER AGREEMENT MUST BE RESPECTED.
Macedonian Defense Minister Vlado Popovski had a meeting Wednesday in Skopje with his Yugoslav counterpart Velimir Radojevic focused on intensifying of the bilateral cooperation, security of the region and other issues of mutual interest for both countries.
"We are strongly determined for full respect of the Macedonian-Yugoslav Border Delineation Agreement," the Ministers said after the meeting.
With harsh reaction to the claims that the border agreement should be annulled, Radojevic said that demarcation of the Macedonian-Yugoslav border was the top-priority of both governments.
"We have talked about the political and security situation in the Balkans. We have concluded that it is not stable and still burdened with disputes, which present a possibility for future crisis," Popovski said.
The bilateral and regional cooperation between Macedonia and Yugoslavia was successful, Popovski said, and would be intensified in the sphere of education, personnel training and exchange of security information.
Popovski said it was necessary for the international community to define its policy towards the southern Balkan.
Today, Macedonian Minister of Foreign Affairs Slobodan Casule also received a Yugoslav Defense Ministry delegation, led by Minister Velimir Radojevic.
The officials shared opinions on current developments in the region and possibilities for intensifying of the bilateral cooperation, the ministry said in a press release.
The officials also underlined the necessity for respecting of the UN Security Council Resolution 1244, the Kumanovo military-technical agreement and the principle of border inviolability in the region.
Casule informed his guests on yesterday's government decision to open temporary crossing at the Macedonian-Yugoslav border, on the Kosovo part, which will enable free passing of citizens, whose properties are located at the border area.
Radojevic also had a meeting with Interior Ministers Ljube Boskovski, and will be received President Boris Trajkovski.
Tomorrow, Radojevic is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski and Parliament Speaker Stojan Andov.
NEGOTIATIONS ON DISPUTES OVER ELECTION LAWS CONTINUE.
EU Special Envoy Alain Le Roy, US Ambassador to Macedonia Lawrence Butler and US State Department Special Advisor on Southeastern Europe James Holmes met Wednesday afternoon with the representatives of SDSM and PDP and continued the negotiations for coordinating the positions regarding the election of the President of the State Election Committee (SEC), the composition of the regional and municipal election institutions and the ballots.
The three mediators will also meet later this afternoon with the representatives of VMRO-DPMNE and DPA, and then will brief Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski on the results from the separate meetings. According to the sources from the Presidential Cabinet, Trajkovski was not present at the last night's meeting and will not be directly involved in the talks.
SDSM Vice President Nikola Popovski said after the meeting "that this stage of the negotiations does not guarantees that an agreement will be reached regarding all disputed issues." According to him, an additional joint meeting between the mediators and the parties' leaders will not be held on Wednesday.
PDP spokesman Zahir Bekteshi said that this party "was not obstructing the process."
"If the voting on the election laws and the other laws arising from Framework Agreement fails, then the scheduling of the elections will be challenged," Bekteshi said.
PDP remains on the position the ballot to be in compliance with Article 5 from the Constitution, SEC's members to be distinguished lawyers and the election bodies to be elected with two-thirds majority. According to Bekteshi, the chances for eventual abuse are minimized in this way.
"DPA and VMRO-DPMNE are against, but do not offer any specific proposals," Bekteshi said, adding that the passport issue was not discussed at the meeting.
Coordinator of DPA parliamentary group Zamir Dika said that DPA remains on its position. He considers that long negotiations will undermine the agreement.
According to the US Embassy, Holmes' stay in the country will depend on the course of the negotiations.
Last night meeting brought no results, as the party leaders refused to change their positions.
Prime Minister and the leader of VMRO-DPMNE Ljubcho Georgievski, VMRO-DPMNE Vice-President and Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Supply Marjan Gjorcev, President and Vice-President of SDSM Branko Crvenkovski and Nikola Popovski, the current and former leader of PDP Abdurahman Aliti and Imer Imeri, President and Vice-President of DPA Arben Xhaferi and Menduh Tachi, as well as the US special envoy for the Balkans James Holmes, the EU envoy to Macedonia Alain le Roy, OSCE Chief of Mission to Macedonia Craig Jenness and the US Ambassador to Macedonia Lawrence Butler participated at the meeting.
According to an unofficial information, the representatives of the international community that participated at the leadership meeting suggested several solutions for all disputable issues of the package of election laws, election of the president of the State Election Commission and of regional and municipal election commission and the use of languages of the minorities for ballot text.
Recommendations of the international community for surpassing of the disputable issues were reviewed at the meeting.
GOVERNMENT ADOPTS DRAFT-LAW ON SALARIES.
The Macedonian Government adopted Tuesday a draft-law on salaries, worked out in compliance with the agreement between the Government and the Federation of Trade Unions of Macedonia.
The Government also discussed on the dynamic plan for construction of aqueduct and water pumping stations for filling of the Dojran Lake.
Representatives of the Ministries of Environment, Urban Planning, Water Supply and Forestry did not expect serious problems in realization of this project, Government spokesman Gjorgi Trendafilov said.
"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on a suggestion by the Defense Ministry, asked today for opening of an interim border crossing to Yugoslavia," Trendafilov said.
Commenting the former "NLA" commanders' membership in the political party DPA, Trendafilov said that according to the Law on Amnesty they were free citizens.
Minister of Transport and Communications Ljupco Balkovski would meet Thursday with international representatives to discuss on the necessity for transfer of the financial means, promised as donations to Macedonia, Trendafilov said.
"Part of the funds should have been allocated for construction of a temporary settlement for the Macedonians from the village of Aracinovo, who do not feel safe at home or have no conditions for returning," Trendafilov said.
At Tuesday's session, presided by Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski, the Macedonian Government reviewed and adopted a draft-budget for the year 2002.
As stated in the announcement, expenses are estimated at Denar 69,272,000,000, which is a net increase for Denar 2,962,000,000.
The projected level of expenses is owed to the increase of the expenses for salaries, leases, fringe benefits, in accordance to the agreement with the Federation of Trade Unions of Macedonia (SSM) for determination of minimum salary and leveling of salaries of employees in public sector, and accordingly of pensions and fringe benefits on diverse bases with the average salary.
At today's session, the Government also adopted draft-laws in accordance with the rebalance of the Macedonian budget for 2002. One of the most significant is the draft-law on payment of salaries in Macedonia, according to which salaries began to be paid with limited dynamics in December 1993.
According to the law, the salaries in economy in the past years have been accorded with the growth rates of life expenses, while starting from July 2001, they have been accorded with 50% of the growth rate of life expenses.
Furthermore, salaries at non-economy institutions could be changed only in part of the growth rate of life expenses, which grew for 207% in the period between 1994-2001.
The increase of salaries of employees in the state administration and the public health sector will also mean an increase of the pensions, which would amount between 5-6%.
The goal is to create a legal basis for continuation of the same policy in the payment of salaries, as well as creation of basis for immediate implementation of the agreement that was signed between the Government and SSM.
The Government also adopted a draft-law on indebtedness of the Republic of Macedonia with a credit at the Credit Bank for Reconstruction and Development for the Irrigation Project of the South Vardar Region, which has been approved by the German Government in amount of 6,646,794. The credit has been approved for the above-mentioned project, along with a grant for technical assistance to the Macedonian Government in amount of 1,533,875. The credit is approved at favorable conditions, with a 40-year payment period, including a 10-year grace period.
The Government also adopted the decision for determination of the highest prices of certain oil derivatives. Having in mind the influences of the average price of the crude oil at the world market in the past two weeks, as well as the course of the denar in relation to the dollar, retail prices of oil derivatives are to decrease at an average of 4,62%. Thus, starting from midnight, the 86-octane fuel will be sold at 52 denars per liter, 98-octane at 53 denars, while the unleaded fuel at 50 denars. Moreover, diesel fuels are also decreased. D-1 will be sold at 37 denars per liter, while D-2 at 36 denars. The price of the oil for households is also decreased at 25,5 denars per liter.
Petkanov and Filchev Listing Terrorists.
Act on combating the financing of criminal organizations submitted to the cabinet.
IM Minister Georgi Petkanov and Prosecutor General Nikola Filchev are to write a list of suspects for or convicted for terrorism, listed by the UN Security Council, the bill on combating terrorism envisages to be submitted to the cabinet tomorrow. Vladimir Donchev, chairing the Committee on National Security, said yesterday that the cabinet was to submit the bill to the National Assembly till the end of the session. To him, this was one of the pivotal acts the parliament should adopt before the NATO summit in Prague.
TURKEY - TRIAL - BULGARIANS.
Istanbul, June 12 (BTA exclusive by Nahide Deniz of the BBC Bulgarian Service) - The first hearing of a case in which 29 Bulgarians are charged with smuggling of large quantities of cigarettes and alcohol was held at the district court of Edirne, Northwestern Turkey, on June 12.
The hearing began later than scheduled because an interpreter had to be provided for the Bulgarians. Turkish law requires that an interpreter should be available in court for any foreign national.
Fourteen Bulgarians appeared before the court. Ten of them had a lawyer, and the rest said they will defend themselves on their own, according to Georgi Dimov, Bulgarian Consul General in Edirne.
The defendants pleaded not guilty. After hearing out the defence, the judge scheduled another hearing for July 31. The court will have a recess in August.
Turkish lawyers say the proceedings in such cases normally go on for years, so a prompt settlement is unlikely.
On conviction in Turkey, illegal trading carries a fine or a prison sentence of one to five years. If the offence has been committed by two or more persons as a result of a conspiracy, the prison sentence ranges between eight and twelve years.
The case has not received any publicity in Turkey. Local journalists note that thousands of such cases have been instituted in the country.
EUR 10,000 Raised in Bologna for Bulgarian Orphans.
Bologna, June 12 (BTA) - Over 10,000 euros were raised for Bulgarian orphanages at a charity dinner in Bologna attended by Bulgarian Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and his wife Margarita. Saxe-Coburg-Gotha is here on a two-day working visit. Italian industrialists, politicians, business people and aristocrats came to the charity function organized by the Queen Elena International Association, named after Saxe-Coburg-Gotha's grandmother, the Bulgarian government announced on its website.
BBC radio quantified the number of guests at 200 and said each of them paid 200 euros to attend the dinner.
In January 2002, the association sent two TIR trucks with donations to Bulgarian orphanages and homes for senior citizens.
Saxe-Coburg-Gotha is scheduled to meet on Wednesday here with industrialists at the initiative of the Parmalat company founder to rally interest towards Bulgaria as an investment destination.
BULGARIA - MACEDONIA - CULTURE.
Sofia, June 12 (BTA) - The opportunities for promotion of festival cultural tourism between Bulgaria and Macedonia were discussed at the Euxinograde Residence near Varna (on the Black Sea) between Bulgarian Culture Minister Bozhidar Abrashev and Macedonian Culture Minister Ganka Samoilova-Cvetanovska, the Bulgarian Ministry of Culture said in a press release.
The sides considered the prospects for deeper and more vigorous contacts in the intellectual sphere and the opportunities for expanding bilateral cultural cooperation.
Abrashev and Samoilova-Cvetanska concurred that Bulgaria and Macedonia have a huge historical heritage and its better presentation to the world requires that the two countries join their efforts in applying together to the various European programmes.
The Programme for Cooperation in the 2002-2004 period, signed between the two ministries, was described as a "guarantee of the irreversibility of bilateral dialogue."
Stressing the importance of a further expansion of cultural cooperation, the ministers also discussed the joint strategy for the forthcoming conference of the Central European Initiative ministers of culture, due in Skopje on July 27.
Apart from an exchange of visits at the minister level, a number of joint projects have been implemented since 1999 in literature, theatre, music, cinema and the two countries' institutes for monuments of culture.
Traditionally, Bulgaria participates in the Ohrid Festival and in the Skopje Summer International Festival.
Two projects for film co-productions have been developed on grants from Macedonia's Ministry of Culture: "Warming Yesterday's Lunch" (written by Mile Nedelkovski, directed by Kostadin Bonev) and "Fate as a Rat" (written by Konstantin Pavlov, directed by Ivan Pavlov).
Bulgarian-Georgian Travel Accord Becomes Effective.
Sofia, June 12 (BTA) - Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Passy handed to Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister Merab Antadze a note in which the Bulgarian side says it has completed all domestic procedures for the entry into force of an intergovernmental agreement on the exchange of citizen visits.
The March 2002 agreement signed in Tbilisi regulates the general terms and conditions for the issue of entry visas against a verified invitation and eases the visa procedures for organized tourist groups and for mix-marriage spouses.
Visas will be issued free of charge within 24 hours under emergency circumstances. Holders of diplomatic passports, the staff of diplomatic missions, consular offices and trade representation offices, accredited journalists, air and marine crews will be entitled to a visa free entry and stay on either country's territory.
The agreement entitles to free visas children from mixed marriages under 16, participants in cultural and sporting events, people aged over 60 and postgraduate students.
Bilateral political consultations will be held on Wednesday and Thursday at deputy-minister level.
BLACK SEA -MONITORING.
Black Sea Monitoring Programme to Be Approved at Working Meeting on Black Sea Protection.
Sofia, June 12 (BTA) - A Commission on the Protection of the Black Sea Against Pollution starts a working meeting in the Boyana government residence in Sofia Wednesday. On the list of participants are representatives of Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine, as well as observers of the European Commission, commissions for protection of the River Danube, the Mediterranean Sea, the Baltic Sea and the Northeast Atlantic, the Black Sea Economic Cooperation, ACCOBAMS, the UN Environmental Programme, the Black Sea environmental programme and the Helsinki Committee.
The participants in the working meeting will review the progress of implementation of its strategic plan, the new projects of the Global Environmental Facility and the TACIS programme, cooperation with the Danube programme, as well as trilateral cooperation among the Black Sea and the Danube programmes and the European Commission.
The forum will adopt a Black Sea monitoring programme.
The Commission on the Protection of the Black Sea Against Pollution was set up in Varna in May 1995. It is chaired by the member states on a rotational principle for a term of one year. The current chairman is Bulgarian Deputy Environment Minister Manoela Georgieva.
EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT - ENLARGEMENT.
MEPs Discuss Foreign Policy Committee Chairmans Report on Progress of Accession Talks with 12 EU Applicants.
Strasbourg, June 12 (BTA Exclusive by Bulgarian National Television Correspondent Zornitsa Venkova) - The European Parliament opened the discussion of the report by Foreign Policy Committee Chairman Elmar Brock on the progress of the accession negotiations with the 12 EU applicant countries, including Bulgaria.
The report is the first document to divide the candidates into such wanting to accede to the EU in 2004 and Bulgaria and Romania who have stated a later date. The author of the report suggested to those of the 12 "who will be admitted in the EU to waive beforehand their right to a veto against the accession of the rest".
There does not exist a legal basis to do this, Brock said, adding that he will insists before the newly admitted members to make the respective political declaration.
The part of the report devoted to Bulgaria notes the governments ambition to speed up the negotiations and raises the concern that the country may be left behind. The author urges the 15 member states to give the country a clear sign in the redrawn road-map, as well as by "extending generous pre-accession aid".
Ramon De Miguel, Spanish Secretary of State for European Affairs and member of the Spanish Presidency of the EU, reaffirmed the intention to work in this direction saying that "we [the EU member states] must not forget Bulgaria and Romania but to pay them special attention". European Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen made a statement in a similar line.
The participants in the discussion will pay special attention to the Kozlodoui nuclear power plant. The report, which will be put to the vote on Thursday, urges the European Commission and Bulgaria to reach compromise on the decommissioning of power units three and four in the power plant, taking into account the experts opinions. Meanwhile, the Green Party and the Party of the European Socialists amended their demand and now insist that the generators in question be closed in 2006.
Chief of General Staff Gen. Miho Mihov Was Presented a Sward and Rifle.
Gen. Miho Mihov, outgoing Chief of Staff of the Bulgarian Army, on Tuesday handed over to his successor Gen. Nikola Kolev. The official ceremony took place at the Defence Ministry and was attended by President Georgi Parvanov, who is Supreme Commander-in-chief of the Bulgarian Army, Defence Minister Nikolai Svinarov, and high-ranking army officers. His successor Nikola Kolev and Defense Minister Svinarov presented Gen. Mihov with unique arms. Earlier on Tuesday Parvanov decorated Gen. Mihov with the Balkan Range Order Class One with Swords in recognition of his active participation in the implementation of military reform, his long-year immaculate service in the army, and his withdrawal as Chief of General Staff due to the expiration of his term. "The highest Bulgarian order is awarded to Gen. Mihov as a high and deserved recognition of his long-year immaculate service and the brilliant way in which he has coped with the tasks he had to fulfil as Chief of General Staff," Parvanov said in his speech. "We will remember the time during which Gen. Miho Mihov occupied this position for the acceleration of the military reform, creating the conditions and prerequisites for a new military construction, building a more combat-ready Bulgarian army, raising the international prestige of our armed forces," the head of state said. "It is a pleasure to give Gen. Kolev his new epaulettes not only because he is part of the team that shouldered the burden of the military reform, but because Gen. Kolev has all necessary qualities, professional experience and authority to continue what has been done by his predecessor," Parvanov said. "The generals and admirals who have been promoted to a higher rank take over the military leadership of the Bulgarian army during a particularly important period - a period when Bulgaria is on the final track, a little before Prague from which we expect a positive decision concerning our country's membership of NATO, but also a period after Prague that involves an even more serious burden and responsibilities," Parvanov said. In his speech Parvanov expressed his satisfaction with the promotion of National Bodyguard Service (NBS) chief Lieut. Gen. Dimiter Vladimirov to a higher rank. "In the past years and over the last few weeks the NBS has been very precise and responsible about its work by which it deserved not only national but also international recognition despite the difficult circumstances under which it operates," Parvanov said. "I am satisfied that the ritual of transferring the command of the Bulgarian army is democratic and civilized as never before, which is a very clear sign that in the Bulgarian army there are stable processes under way that are build our armed forces and turning them into a reliable guarantor of our national security," Parvanov said in conclusion. "It would be an exaggeration to declare that I share this order with the whole Bulgarian army the command of which I have had over the last five years, but I would like to say it because it will also be true," Gen. Miho Mihov said in his speech after he was presented the Balkan Range Order. "These worthy officers of Bulgaria worked selflessly, but I had the honour to become their embodiment due to the reform, staunchly following the political course of Atlantic and European integration, and preserving the combat fitness and fighting ability of our army," Gen. Mihov said. Gen. Mihov has been appointed military security advisor to the Supreme Commander-in-chief of the Bulgarian Army by a presidential decree. The new Chief of General Staff, Lieut. Gen. Nikolai Kolev, has been promoted to the rank of general. The following officers have been promoted to the rank of lieutenant general: NBS Chief Major Gen. Dimiter Vladimirov; Major Gen. Dimiter Zehtinov, Deputy Chief of General Staff for Operations; Major Gen. Zlatan Stoikov, Deputy Chief of General Staff for Resources; and Major General Dimiter Georgiev, Chief of Staff of the Air Force. The new Chief of Naval Staff, Brig. Admiral Neiko Atanassov, has been promoted to the rank of rear admiral, and Brig. Gen. Kolyo Buchvarov, Deputy Chief of Staff of the Ground Forces for Resources, to the rank of major general. The following officers have been promoted to the rank of brigadier general: Col. Orlin Ivanov, Director of Security, Military Police and Military Counterintelligence Service; Col. Roumen Tsokov, Deputy Chief of Staff of the Air Force for Operations; Col. Dincho Karamounchev, Air Defence Corps Commander; Col. Pavlomir Kunchev, Chief of Human Resources Department with the General Staff of the Bulgarian Army; Col. Valeri Lazarov, Chief of Intelligence Department with the General Staff; Col. Georgi Georgiev, Chief of the Hristo Botev Central Training Centre for Junior Officers and Conscripts; Col. Galimir Pehlivanov, Commander of the 61st Mechanized Brigade; and Col. Atanas Samandov, Commander of the Special Operation Forces.
Parliament Ratifies Bulgaria-US Memorandum of Understanding on Destruction of Missiles.
Sofia, June 12 (BTA) - At a closed-door session Wednesday that lasted three hours, Parliament ratified a Memorandum of Understanding between the US and the Bulgarian governments for support in the destruction and demilitarization of Bulgarian missile systems and their components and materials, as well as classified attachments to the Memorandum. The document was signed in Sofia on May 31.
The Memorandum says that the US government will aid the Bulgarian government in the destruction and demilitarization of SS-23, Scud and FROG missiles, and the materials, equipment and components thereof.
"Demilitarization" refers to a process where specific parts of the missile systems will be dismantled to be pressed, cut of scrapped in any other way agreed upon by the two sides.
The specific methods of destruction are described in one of the classified attachments. Any change in these methods needs to be approved in advance by the two countries' executive bodies for the Memorandum: the State Department for the US and the Defence Ministry for Bulgaria.
Defence Minister Nikolai Svinarov told reporters after the off-limits session of Parliament that they have chosen a technology of destruction that will guarantee maximum safety, including to environment.
He also said that a special news conference will be held to make public the parameters of the Memorandum and demonstrate the safety of the chosen destruction technology.
Bulgaria will get US financial aid to destroy the missiles but as the talks with the contractors in the project are still underway, it remains unclear at this point how much the procedure will cost, Svinarov said.
The press learnt from MPs of various groups after the session that the Memorandum was supported unanimously by the ruling Simeon II National Movement, the opposition United Democratic Forces and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, while the socialist-dominated Coalition for Bulgaria gave both "for" and "against" votes, and abstentions.
In a view of the nature of the document, the Government has proposed that the Memorandum and the classified attachments are not published in the Official Gazette. The ministers of defence, finance and foreign affairs have been authorized to make arrangements for the implementation of the Government's obligations under the document.
Any operations by the US side, its contractors and subcontractors will be exempt from duty and charges based on an agreement between the Bulgarian and US governments for economic, technical and other aid, signed July 27, 1998, and effective as of February 1, 1999.
Asked by reporters why the US side is free of responsibility in case of a possible damage in the implementation of the Memorandum, Svinarov said that such a clause is not without precedent and the US has asked for such guarantees in many other international agreements. "It does not mean that no one will be responsible for possible damage. The Bulgarian Government will be," said the Defence Minister.
The chairman of the parliamentary committee for foreign policy, defence and security, Stanimir Ilchev, said that during the session the MPs discussed all major aspects of the Memorandum, especially the economic ones. A representative of the Environment Ministry was in the plenary chamber to explain at length the potential environmental risks. Ilchev would not say where the missiles will be destroyed, explaining that the experts have yet to decide what site is the best. Nor would he say where the liquid fuel will be destroyed.
According to him, it is only normal to do it in a country with technological expertise and the right equipment, but he refused to name the country he was referring to.
Sofia, June 12 (BTA) - "Muslims in Bulgaria are not obstructed in any way in practicing their religion," Chief Mufti Selim Mehmed said in an interview for the BNR in connection with a statement made on Monday in Razgrad by visiting deputy speaker of the Turkish parliament Ali Iliksoy that institution-level obstacles make it impossible for some Muslim places of worship to function.
Mehmed said that the Muslim community is awaiting for several outstanding issues to be settled, including the matter of mosques in Razgrad, Shumen, Stara Zagora and Karlovo that have been declared cultural heritage sites and closed down for religious services. He admitted, however, that title deeds are not available for all of the buildings in question. These structures undeniably have immense cultural and historic value and are a great tourist draw but the Muslims in those areas need them and want to be allowed to use them for their intended purpose, Mehmed said.
The effective legislation on cultural heritage sites will have to be amended for that to happen. If the format of the ownership is altered, the state will be relieved of any maintenance duties.
Mehmed said he hopes these and other issues related to the different religious communities will be solved with the new law on religious faiths.
Rulers Subordinate the Judicial System.
INTERVIEW Standartnews: Dimitar Abadjiev
The extended powers of the Justice Minister are in contradiction with the Constitution, MP Dimitar Abadjiev says.
- Mr Abadjiev, the National Assembly is soon to adopt amendments to the Judicial System act at a second reading. Will the amendments make the system more efficient?
- The NMS bill envisages to extend the powers of the Ministry of Justice.
- That's right. Obviously, it will result in a greater disbalance in the powers of the Ministry at the expense of the judicial power. The draft bill envisages to restore the National Investigation Service. It will limit the powers of the prosecutors in the preliminary proceedings and will eventually reduce its efficiency.
- Your colleagues believe that the amendments aim at replacing the Prosecutor General. You comment?
- The bill gives the minister the right to demand the immunity of the Prosecutor General to be withdrawn.
Gad Zeevi Cheated Chernoy.
INTERVIEW Standartnews: Batkov
The Israeli businessman did not violate the law, lawyer Batkov said.
- Mr Batkov, how will you comment on the information that the Israel's prosecution decided to lay an indictment on Israeli businessmen Gad Zeevi, his lawyer Michael Commiser, Zev Rom and Michael Chernoy?
- It was not unexpected. Such a checkup started in March, 2001. In 1999 Cable and Wireless, who own 20 percent of the Israeli national operator Bezeq made a tender to sell out this package. The 5 biggest business families as well as Gad Zeevi took part in the tender. It was the latter who won. He acquired the package receiving the permission of the Telecommunications Minister. Michael Chernoy has signed a contract with Gad Zeevi, under which Chernoy gives him the sum of $143 million. On the bases of this contract Chernoy was granted a guarantee by a Swiss bank to secure the consortium of banks financing the deal at 100 percent. It totals $640 million. Mr Chernoy's participation is reduced to signing a credit agreement and an option contract, i.e. the means are granted as a loan and have to be paid back with the due interests. An option is envisaged in a 5-year term from the sealing of the contract, half of the package to be acquired by the firm of Mr Chernoy, observing the respective laws. There is nothing wrong with such a contract. This is why we think that the law has not been violated in whatever way.
- Why then all this resulted in an investigation?
- Israel is a very interesting country. On the one hand, it is the only democratic country in Middle East having a working judicial system. On the other hand, however, Israel is known for investigating its elite. Till recently former PM Benjamin Netanyahu was investigated, and at present the now PM Ariel Sharon is investigated.
- Is Mr Chernoy involved in the story?
- I repeat once again there was no violations in the contract he signed. I could give you the report of an international audit company: to it, in the recent 6 years Mr Chernoy has received $1.5 billion from 14 deals. So, to the question if Chernoy violated the Israeli laws, the answers is - absolutely no.
- Did Mr Chernoy gain the control over the management of Bezeq?
- Absolutely no.
- Who, then, violated the law?
- I would comment on it this way: it is a matter of future calculations of how much did Gad Zeevi cheated Bulgaria on the Balkan Airlines deal, assisted by helpful ministers and PMs. It is pending to be made clear how much did he pay to those helpful officials. As for the Bezeq deal, it was quite an unsuccessful one for Mr Chernoy. He lost $100 million from it. Which is also recorded in the international audit. So, in this particular case Mr Chernoy was cheated and suffered losses.
- Do you think that these accusations are to be used by some people in Bulgaria?
- I do not know. But I'll repeat once again that these accusations are completely groundless. An investor such as Chernoy is should be paid respect to, rather than being impeded in such a ridiculous way. For how many are the investors of such a scale in Bulgaria? From early 2002 only, his investments in Bulgaria account for $46 million. This country is on the verge of bankruptcy and it is high time for some one to take decisive measures. Furthermore, there is another bad thing in Bulgaria: the name of Michael Chernoy is all the time used as a pawn in the political game. Very soon, I'm afraid, some of the now rulers will share the destiny of the former ones.
- What are your expectations of the developments in the investigation led in Israel?
- Still, it is a step to settling the issue. And I'm sure that eventually the end will be favourable for Chernoy. I suppose it was an attack launched by everybody who failed to win Bezeq. These are the so-called old Israelites who are not able to swallow the fact that a man who came from the lower strata of society left them behind. Secondly, attempts are made in Israel at present to discredit the so-called new Israelites. These are the Jews who have lived in the USSR for a long time and immigrated to Israel a decade ago. Most of them are highly successful and brought to Israel their assets with them. Chernoy is one of them. And last but not least, a heated debate is held in Israel to the effect if the police investigation is using efficiently the enormous funds allotted from the budget to shadow, tap and bug, resulting in no exposed crimes at all.
This is why these officers are trying to gain credit. It's a shame that the efforts of such a powerful machine are wasted on businessmen who could be helpful, rather than being focused on combatting terrorism.