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Bulgaria: Desire To Join NATO Should Not Damage Russian Relations

Sofia, 23 May 1997 (RFE/RL) - Bulgaria's new foreign minister Nadezhda Mihailova says Sofia's desire to join NATO will not damage relations with Moscow.

In a speech in Sofia today to an international conference on Bulgarian-Russian relations, Mihailova said ties between the two countries are among the new Bulgarian government's foreign policy priorities that parliament approved this week.

The pro-Western cabinet, which took office Wednesday, has pledged that membership in the European Union and NATO will be its top foreign policy goals.

But both President Petar Stoyanov and Prime Minister Ivan Kostov have stressed that Bulgaria cannot afford to underestimate the importance of trade with Russia.

Our correspondent in Sofia reports state-owned Bulgargaz yesterday announced a breakthrough with Russia gas exporters that could bring down the price of natural gas in Bulgaria by about 10 percent.