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Cablegate: Bulgaria: President Signals a Mek Decision Is Close

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

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 SOFIA 001902

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/08/2010
TAGS: PREL MOPS MARR KCRM IZ BU
SUBJECT: BULGARIA: PRESIDENT SIGNALS A MEK DECISION IS CLOSE

REF: A. 04 SOFIA 0196
B. KOLEV-ABIZAID LETTER 01 NOV 05
C. SOFIA 1882

Classified By: Ambassador John Beyrle, for reasons 1.5 (b) and (d).

1. (C) SUMMARY: In a November 8 meeting with the Ambassador,
President Parvanov mirrored the General Staff's
forward-leaning position on Bulgaria's follow-on activities
in Iraq, indicating the government is now leaning toward the
MEK mission at Camp Ashraf. He also expressed his optimism
for a positive outcome on bilateral base negotiations and
emphasized the importance of Bulgaria's fight against
organized crime following the murder of prominent businessman
Emil Kyulev. The President reiterated a previous request
(ref A) for U.S. help in obtaining information on allegations
that Parvanov's Bulgarian Socialist Party benefited from
corrupt oil deals with the government of Saddam Hussein. END
SUMMARY

2. (C) On Iraq, President Parvanov echoed the recent letter
of General Staff Chief Kolev (ref B), referring to a
Bulgarian follow-on mission at Camp Ashraf as if it were
already a firm decision. In a follow up discussion with the
DCM, Deputy Foreign Minister Kyuchokov said the MFA and MOD
will be sending a joint recommendation in favor of the MEK to
the Council of Ministers. They hope to have their final
proposal ready for deliberation at the Council's Nov. 17
meeting. Both Kyuchokov and Parvanov indicated the proposed
force size would be 100-120 troops. Kyuchokov said the
government is preparing for a negative public reaction to the
decision, but hopes to mute this by emphasizing the
humanitarian nature of the MEK mission and the reduced force
size. The Ambassador thanked Parvanov for Bulgaria's
continued engagement with the USG throughout the planned
withdrawal of their current battalion.

3. (C) Parvanov also remained optimistic on the issue of
joint basing negotiations, indicating that he expected all
political forces in the country except one (a reference to
the extreme nationalist party "Ataka") to ultimately support
an agreement on U.S. forces in Bulgaria. Ambassador Beyrle
stressed the importance of reclaiming the basing issue from
Ataka and highlighted Prime Minister Stanishev's recent
positive statements on basing as an example of Bulgarian
politicians shaping public opinion on the issue.

4. (C) The President thanked the Ambassador for U.S. offers
to assist in the murder investigation of banker Emil Kyulev
(ref C). He emphasized the GOB's seriousness on this issue
and his satisfaction at international and inter-ministerial
cooperation on the investigation. The Ambassador restated
the U.S.'s willingness to help, but also expressed concern at
the investigation's slow pace and failure to collect basic
pieces of evidence in a timely fashion. He reminded
President Parvanov that -- despite the GOB,s request for
technical experts -- no evidence has yet been seized that
would require the presence of these experts in Bulgaria. The
Ambassador noted that Bulgaria may again be losing an
opportunity to demonstrate its seriousness in the fight
against organized crime.

5. (C) Further to the theme of national security, President
Parvanov emphasized the threat of radical nationalism in
Bulgaria as one that "we should not underestimate." The
President mentioned the success of the recently launched
"Ataka" newspaper, which he claimed had reached a circulation
of 40,000 in a matter of weeks, and raised concerns about
Ataka's financial backers.

6. (SBU) The President expressed great appreciation for the
hospitality shown by President Bush and the First Lady during
his recent White House visit. Parvanov reserved special
praise for the "meaningful, forceful, and clear" statements
by President Bush on the Bulgarian nurses in Libya, and noted
that the U.S. position had been welcomed by the Bulgarian
public.

7. (C) President Parvanov closed the meeting by repeating a
"special request" previously made in 2004 (ref A). In light
of the "Petrolgate" scandal, Parvanov asked for U.S. help in
obtaining information regarding ongoing allegations that his
Bulgarian Socialist Party had profited from "oil for
influence" deals with the Saddam Hussein regime. Parvanov
categorically denied that the BSP had received "a cent" from
Saddam. He emphasized that this request was not for public
use, but merely for party leaders "to know for ourselves what
this is about."

8. (C) COMMENT: President Parvanov,s White House visit has
been extremely successful in ensuring Bulgaria,s continuing
cooperation on a number of high-profile issues. The
Government is clearly moving toward the MEK mission, although
concern remains about public reaction. We will continue to
track the government's discussion, encouraging a positive
decision and developing a public diplomacy strategy that
minimizes negative public response. END COMMENT
BEYRLE

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