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Sofia, 27 February 1997 (RFE/RL) - The leader of Bulgaria's main opposition party, Ivan Kostov of the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) departed for London yesterday on a previously unnannounced trip.

Our correspondent in Sofia says Kostov is widely believed to be the next prime minister following early parliamentary elections scheduled for April 19. He recently succeeded in transforming the anti-Communist UDF coalition into a single political party.

A UDF source told RFE-RL that Kostov's trip to London in all likelihood is being organized by the British Conservative Party, which has offered UDF open support in recent months.

Meanwhile, Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov began a three nation tour of East Central Europe today with a visit to Poland. He is also due to visit Hungary and the Czech Republic.

The Government press office announced today that the Prime Minister of Bulgaria's caretaker government, Stefan Sofiansky, is due to travel to Skopje in neighboring Macedonia tomorrow.

Our correspondent comments that the three most popular politicians, all with roots in the anti-communist political camp, are simultaneously tunring to the international stage in a bid to help the country as it undergoes a severe economic crisis inherited from the ousted socialist government of Zhan Videnov.

IMF To Grant Loan Before Establishment Of Currency Board

Bulgarian Finance Minister Stefan Gavriisky says he believes that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will grant a loan to Bulgaria even before the expected introduction of an internationally supervised currency board.

The board would be introduced as a measure to stabilize Bulgaria's financial system after early general elections scheduled for April 19.

Gavriisky made the announcement after a meeting of the government council for stabilization. The head of the IMF mission in Bulgaria, participated in the council discissions. Gavriisky called on the IMF to provide urgent financial support.

The finance minister later told reporters in Sofia that no specific amount of money for the loan was discussed with the IMF delegation.