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Cablegate: Scenesetter for Visit to Washington of Bulgarian

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

S E C R E T SOFIA 000548



E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/21/2015

REF: A) SOFIA 0524 B) SOFIA 0436 C) 04 SOFIA 2054
(NOTAL) D) 04 SOFIA 2261 D)

Classified By: Ambassador James Pardew, reasons 1.5(b) and (d).


1. (C) SUMMARY. Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Passy's
meeting with you on March 25 is an opportunity to shape
Bulgaria's commitment to the Iraq coalition as the government
searches for an exit strategy. Passy has consistently been
the most pro-American voice in this government on the full
range of bilateral relations. Though he will certainly raise
other issues, his primary purpose in requesting a meeting
with you is to secure an invitation to the White House before
Bulgaria's June 25 elections for the former king and current
Prime Minister, Simeon Saxe-Coburg Gotha. We support a
Simeon-POTUS meeting because it is in our interest to see
Simeon's party do well in the upcoming elections, and because
it will help the government shore up support for its policy
on Iraq. Passy and the government he represents now view
every issue through the lens of the June elections, which the
opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) would win if they
were held today. The Socialists have made Bulgaria's
withdrawal from Iraq a major campaign theme. The most recent
opinion poll shows that roughly two-thirds of the Bulgarian
population favors withdrawal from Iraq either immediately or
right after the June elections. This, combined with the
killing of another Bulgarian soldier on March 4 , has put the
government on the defensive and led it to seek ways to
neutralize the war in Iraq as a campaign issue (refs A-B).

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2. (C) The Council of Ministers is set to discuss an exit
strategy at its next meeting on March 24, and to decide the
issue on March 31. Despite our repeated, high-level
recommendation that the government avoid a date certain and
instead focus on conditions in Iraq, the government may reach
a decision to withdraw Bulgarian forces from Iraq at the end
of 2005, when the fifth Bulgarian battalion completes its
scheduled six-month rotation. Passy will be seeking concrete
"deliverables" from the U.S. that the ruling party can use
with the electorate to counter the perception that this
government has received nothing in return for its sacrifices
in Iraq. Deputy Secretary Zoellick will meet with President
Purvanov, the Prime Minister and Passy in Sofia on March 30.


3. (C) This government has felt for months that its
contributions to the Coalition in Iraq and the broader war on
terrorism are under-appreciated by the U.S. (refs C-D).
Passy is likely to repeat the theme that his government needs
concrete benefits to show Bulgarian voters that their country
is a valuable member of the Coalition. In the past, this
list included reconstruction contracts for Bulgarian
companies, repayment of Iraqi debt, inclusion in the Visa
Waiver Program, negotiation of a treaty on the avoidance of
double taxation, and help with the release of the Bulgarian
medics in Libya. Passy is realistic enough to know that debt
repayment and the visa waiver are probably non-starters at
this point, but that will not stop him from pressing for a
concrete demonstration of U.S. support. At the top of his
list will be a White House meeting for the Prime Minister.
Simeon badly wants such a meeting, and has approached us
through Passy and other trusted confidants. The Prime
Minister knows that President Purvanov beat him to the punch
by formally requesting a meeting with President Bush through
Bulgaria's ambassador in Washington last January. Purvanov,
the former leader of the BSP, has taken a responsible
position on Iraq and also deserves a meeting. However, we do
not recommend a Parvanov visit until after the Bulgarian
elections, because a White House meeting would give a
political boost to the Socialists


4. (C) Simeon's interest in meeting POTUS is two-fold: to
dispel the notion that Bulgaria is not a valued ally of the
United States, and to help close the gap between his party
and the Socialists on the eve of elections. We see both

goals as being in the U.S. interest. First, a White House
meeting at this stage in the domestic debate over Iraq will
help shore up support for a significant Bulgarian presence in
Iraq, at least until key political milestones are reached.
And second, closing the gap between the Prime Minister's
party and the Socialists favors our interests after June 25.
Inside the government, the Prime Minister's party will be a
force for continuity in foreign policy. While a Socialist
victory would not be a total disaster for us, it would make
our job much more difficult on a wide range of issues we care

5. (C) The current government has a record that most
politicians would be glad to run on: steady five-percent
economic growth, low inflation, falling unemployment, a
stable currency, booming real estate and tourism sectors,
NATO membership, the best relationship with the U.S. in
Bulgaria's history, and -- as of April 25 -- the signing of
Bulgaria's EU Accession Treaty. Yet they have so far been
unable to translate these successes into electoral support,
in part because they are a new party without strong
grassroots organization and in part because the Prime
Minister himself is remarkably passive. If Passy complains
about the need for deliverables to shore up public support,
you can point out that an effective domestic campaign is more
important to their political future than a single meeting.


6. (C) The U.S. military's investigation into the killing of
Bulgarian Sergeant Gurdi Gurdev on March 4 is not complete as
of this writing, but you should express our condolences for
this, the eighth Bulgarian soldier killed in Iraq. You
should praise Passy for Bulgaria's deployment of troops in
Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, and Bosnia, as well as their
initial contribution of five trainers to the NATO mission in
Iraq. Bulgaria will also take over responsibility for
security of the Kabul airport in 2006.

7. (C) On Iraq, you should encourage Passy to link Bulgaria's
withdrawal to a set of conditions in Iraq, rather an
arbitrary date certain. In Sofia we have advised them to
link their strategy to the approval of a constitution, the
holding of parliamentary elections under that constitution
and the development of the Iraqi security forces. In the
meantime, they should maintain their battalion-strength
capability in Diwania and start planning for a significant
increase in their contribution to the NATO training mission.

8. (S) You should note that cooperation between our
intelligence services in the global war on terrorism has been

9. (C) You should assure Passy that we will follow through
vigorously on our efforts to secure the release of six
Bulgarian nurses held in Libya for seven years on charges of
infecting some 400 children with HIV. This is an issue that
touches ordinary Bulgarians deeply, and it is hard to imagine
an area where the U.S. could potentially gain more goodwill
with Bulgarians across the political spectrum. It is also an
area where we have been forthcoming. Passy will thank you
for U.S. support and Ambassador Bill Burns' personal
attention to this issue. Finally, the one area where this
government has fallen short of expectations is in
strengthening the rule of law. Corruption and organized
crime are endemic here, and the government has done little to
stem the tide. If there is a shortcoming that could hamper
Bulgaria's political and economic development, this is it.

10. (SBU) Deputy Secretary Zoellick will meet in Sofia March
30 with the President Purvanov, the Prime Minister and Passy.

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