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Bulgaria Honors French President for Role in Release of Medical Workers


Bulgaria has awarded a top honor to French President Nicholas Sarkozy for his role on helping gain the release of Bulgarian medical workers jailed in Libya.

Bulgarian President Georgy Parvanov Thursday presented Mr. Sarkozy with the "Stara Planina" medal, Bulgaria's highest decoration, as the French leader began a visit to Sofia.

France led the campaign for the release of five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian-born doctor who were sentenced to death in Libya on charges of infecting more than 400 Libyan children with the HIV/AIDS virus.

The sentences were later reduced to life imprisonment and the five were turned over to Bulgarian authorities. President Parvanov pardoned them on arrival in the Bulgarian capital.

Mr. Sarkozy's day-long visit to Bulgaria includes talks with Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev and other officials on bilateral relations.

During hearings in their case, the medical workers said they had been tortured to force them to falsely confess to the charges.

International experts say the children's infections probably stemmed from poor hygiene in a Libyan hospital.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.