- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 6, 2001

Bulgaria, hoping to bolster its chances of becoming a NATO member next year, told the United States yesterday that it would destroy dozens of SS-23 and Scud missiles it had kept since the Cold War.
Visiting Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Passy also assured senior Bush administration officials that his country had taken strict entry-visa measures that would make it hard for terrorists and other illegal foreigners to use the small Balkan country as a gateway to Western Europe.
Bulgarian citizens can travel without visas to most European countries but not to Britain, Canada and the United States.
"Our visa stamps have 28 levels of protection, and the technology we use is the most advanced in the world," Mr. Passy said in an interview yesterday.
In meetings with National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Mr. Passy pledged his country's support for the U.S.-led campaign against terrorism. The Bulgarian parliament has voted to give overflight rights to U.S. aircraft used in the war in Afghanistan.
"As a rotating member of the U.N. Security Council for the next two years, Bulgaria has placed the fight against terror high on its foreign-policy agenda," said Mr. Passy.
The State Department said Mr. Armitage "thanked Mr. Passy for Bulgaria's immediate and ongoing support for the campaign to fight terrorism" and "commended Bulgaria on its ongoing efforts at reform."
Bulgaria has been working hard since 1997 to present itself as an attractive NATO candidate with a strategic geographic location, improving economy and stable political institutions.
Mr. Passy became foreign minister in July after a new political movement founded by Bulgaria's ex-monarch, King Simeon II, won a general election. He said the election of a former Communist Party member as president last month will not change Bulgaria's orientation to the West, and NATO and European Union membership will remain its top foreign-policy objectives.
The North Atlantic alliance is set to extend invitations to more young democracies in Central and Eastern Europe at a Prague summit late next year. It accepted Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic in 1999.
Bulgarian President-elect Georgi Parvanov, who heads the country's Socialist Party, has promised to work for entry into NATO and the EU, but his enthusiasm has not been nearly as strong as that of the incumbent, Petar Stoyanov. In October, Mr. Stoyanov hosted a summit of the heads of state of all nine NATO applicants in Sofia, the Bulgarian capital.
In protest to Mr. Parvanov's election, the Bulgarian ambassador to Washington, Philip Dimitrov, has announced he will resign as soon as the new president takes office in late January.
Asked how his boss, a former king, would work in his capacity as prime minister with a president who is an ex-Communist, Mr. Passy compared Bulgaria's new political landscape to the coexistence of a monarch and prime minister in Britain.

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