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Bulgaria Hopes Iraq will Repay $1.7 Billion Debt - 2003-10-18


The leaders of Bulgaria's parliament again say they expect to find a solution to Iraq satisfying a $1.7 billion debt. The comments come as the United States and Bulgaria celebrate 100 years of diplomatic relations.

Iraq ran up its debt to Bulgaria before the Gulf war, when it was a trading partner of the Balkan country. Now, post-Saddam Iraq is saddled with a heavy foreign debt burden estimated between $120 billion to $300 billion.

Ognyan Gerdjivov, the speaker of the Bulgarian National Assembly says Bulgaria is not inclined to have the whole debt canceled. He says there are ways his country could be compensated.

"Bulgaria imports oil. So, Bulgaria could receive whatever she has to receive by means of petrol exports, either on preferential prices or any other suitable way," he said. "Yet, there is another possibility which could be implemented with the help and support of the United States. And this is to let Bulgarian companies participate in the post-war reconstruction of Iraq. Bulgaria has rich experience and expertise because for years Bulgarian experts in different fields have worked in countries of the Middle East."

Mr. Gerdjivov addressed a round-table discussion in Washington evaluating U.S.- Bulgarian relations. He says the amount owed to his country may not seem that much to the United States, however, it accounts for one tenth of Bulgaria's annual gross domestic product.

The speakers comments come on the last day of a visit by the Bulgarian delegation to the United States. The delegation spent two days in New York before coming to Washington to meet with Secretary of State Colin Powell, Speaker of House Dennis Hastert, as well as with top Republican and Democratic leaders.

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