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Bulgaria: Economic Priorities Set By New Council

By Petko Georgiev and Chris Klimiuk

Sofia, 14 February 1997 (RFE/RL) - Bulgaria's new Financial Stabilization Council held its first session today and set the top priorities as the introduction of a currency board, dealing with internal debt and restoration of confidence in the currency. The Council also decided to halt immediately all fuel exports.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) proposed the so-called currency board to govern exchange rates in order to restore financial stability. A team of IMF experts is expected in Sofia in about a week. A team of tax administration experts arrives within days.

The Council said private assests in the banks will not be frozen, as had been speculated in some Bulgarian media reports recently. Such reports had led to mass withdrawals from banks.

Our correspondent quotes Council members as saying that only external financial aid can help with the internal debt problem.

The head of the Council, interim Prime Minister Stefan Sofianski, said troops would be stationed at the borders, if necessary, to ensure a halt to fuel exports. Severe fuel shortages are widespread.

Meanwhile, Bulgaria's President Petar Stoyanov this month begins a tour of Central Europe in Poland. Bulgaria's Foreign Minister Stoyan Stalev today is quoted as saying "Central Europe is going to be, from now on, one of the priorities of Bulgarian foreign policy." In addition to Poland, Stoyanov is also scheduled to visit the Czech Republic and Hungary. Stoyanov's first trip abroad as President was to Brussels.