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Bulgaria: President Says Sofia Must Sign Minority Rights Convention

Prague, 24 April 1997 (RFE/RL) - Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov, returning to Sofia last night from a visit to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, said his country must sign the Council of Europe's Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.

This is the strongest sign to date that Sofia will sign the document. Some political forces in Sofia have expressed concern that the convention would enable Bulgaria's ethnic Turkish minority to declare autonomy. Turks make up about ten percent of Bulgaria's population.

But Stoyanov told reporters in Sofia the Council of Europe is now looking with "new eyes at the new face of Bulgaria." The popular anti-communist President says Bulgarians deserve this treatment because of reform steps taken in recent months.

Addressing the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe yesterday, Stoyanov said Bulgaria has made an irrevocable choice in favor of market reform and democracy. He said Sofia has ended its previous "tactics of imitating reforms." He also pledged to be the "guarantor" of the human rights of all Bulgarian citizens and to fight any forms of racial intolerance, xenophobia and anti-Semitism.