- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 3, 2009

BULGARIAN RESIGNS

Bulgaria’s ambassador in Washington, who quit this week after 30 years in diplomatic service, blamed his cleaning lady for his downfall.

Ambassador Latchezar Petkov resisted calls for his resignation for more than two months, as a political scandal grew in Bulgaria over missing absentee ballots delivered to the Bulgarian Embassy from Bulgarians in the United States who voted in the July parliamentary elections.

Mr. Petkov, in October, told a Bulgarian newspaper that he had sent an explanation to Foreign Minister Rumyana Zheleva, telling her that his maid had thrown out the ballots by mistake.

“You can’t blame the ambassador for what the cleaning lady did,” he told the newspaper, 24 Chassa.

Mr. Petkov, who was still in Washington on Wednesday, was not available for comment, said an aide who confirmed that he resigned.

On Wednesday in Bulgaria, the Sofia Echo newspaper reported that President Georgi Parvanov confirmed that Mr. Petkov had stepped down. Bulgaria’s ambassador to Turkey, Branimir Mladenov, resigned last month also because of absentee-voting irregularities.

“The most important thing is who will replace them because these are states with which we have strategic interests,” Mr. Parvanov told reporters in Bulgaria.

The political squabble in Bulgaria pitted Mr. Parvanov, who was reluctant to recall the two ambassadors, against his foreign minister and Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, who had demanded they be replaced.

Mr. Petkov, ambassador to the United States since November 2008, was Bulgaria’s ambassador to Poland from 2002 to 2006. He was also accredited to Latvia and Lithuania.

He was consul-general in New York from 1995 to 1999 and, before that, served in Washington as deputy chief of mission a year.

OVERHEATED?

The U.S. ambassador to Australia on Monday praised Prime Minister Kevin Rudd as one of the world’s foremost leaders in the “climate change debate.” On Wednesday, the Australian Senate rejected Mr. Rudd’s key climate legislation, which he had hoped to show off at the Copenhagen climate summit later this month.

Ambassador Jeffrey L. Bleich told an audience in western Australia, “I look forward to working with Prime Minister Rudd, who has been a leader in the international climate change debate.”

Mr. Bleich cited climate issues as a priority of both the Obama and Rudd administrations, saying America’s and Australia’s “fates are intertwined [around] saving the planet.”

“The threat of climate change is real, and the United States is committed to meeting our responsibilities to develop a new, safe energy future,” Mr. Bleich said.

Like Mr. Rudd, Mr. Obama supports a so-called cap-and-trade plan that would require polluting businesses to pay the government for emissions credits, which would then be distributed to environmentally friendly companies. Critics say the scheme is massively expensive and would cripple ailing economies.

Mr. Rudd’s cap-and-trade plan burned out in the Senate on Wednesday, as the opposition Liberal Party defeated his Labor Party in a 41-33 vote. Tony Abbott, the new leader of the Liberal Party, which supports free-market principles, denounced the plan, which he said would favor politically connected businesses.

Mr. Abbott this week called the scheme “a great big tax to create a great big slush fund to provide politicized handouts run by a giant bureaucracy.”

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@ washingtontimes.com.

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