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Bulgaria: Cabinet Urges That Country Join NATO

Sofia, 17 February 1997 (RFE/RL) - In a surprise move today, Bulgaria's interim Cabinet issued a declaration saying Bulgaria should aggressively pursue NATO membership. An RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia reports the declaration was passed unanimously by the Cabinet.

Interim Foreign Minister Stoyan Stalev said he and interim Defense Minister Georgy Ananiev would submit a program designed to prepare Bulgaria for possible NATO membership. And our correspondent reports that President Petar Stoyanov is expected to address the issue of NATO membership in a nationally broadcast address today.

Opposition leaders have often called for NATO membership, but past Socialist-led governments had questioned the need for NATO enlargement, and cited Moscow's security concerns.

Our correspondent cites analysts who say the NATO declaration was adopted clearly in order to appeal for Western support to help Bulgaria out of its economic crisis.