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Bulgaria: Campaign Planned To Collect $1.5 Billion From Iraq

Sofia, 24 February 1997 (RFE/RL) - Bulgaria's government is planning an international campaign to collect $1.5 billion it says Sofia is owed by Iraq.

The Cabinet today directed Trade Minister Daniela Bobeva to seek compensation through the United Nations committee charged with overseeing sanctions on Iraq and payments to injured countries.

The committee has authority to assess funds from revenues on oil sales permitted to Iraq under international sanctions. The Iraqi government already has expressed willingness to use oil revenues for this purpose.

The Cabinet determined that Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Bozhkov should call an urgent session of the existing Bulgaria-Iraq trade commisson to discuss steps for reducing the debt. The Cabinet also directed Prime Minister Stefan Sofianski to ask President Petar Stoyanov to appoint an ambassador to Iraq. Bulgaria withdrew its last ambassador to Baghdad after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. Before the Gulf War, Bulgaria and Iraq were major trade partners.

Bulgaria urgently needs the funds to help defray its own burden of $10 billion of foreign debt. Russia and Romania are among other countries seeking similar debt payments from Iraq.