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Bulgaria: U.S. Defense Official Praises Stabilizing Influence

Sofia, 17 March 1997 (RFE/RL) - U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Walter Slocum today described Bulgaria as having a stabilizing influence in the Balkans.

It was a month ago that Bulgaria's interim Cabinet approved a resolution to seek NATO membership aggressively. Slocum, who arrived in Sofia yesterday, praised that decision, saying NATO will not close its doors to new members, after invitations to open negotiations on membership are offered some Eastern European countries.

Slocum delivered to Bulgaria's interim Defense Minister Georgy Ananiev a letter from U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen. Our Sofia correspondent reports the letter praised Bulgaria, especially for its participation in NATO's "Parnership for Peace" program.

Slocum today also met President Petar Stoyanov, interim Prime Minister Stefan Sofiansky and Foreign Minister Stoyan Stalev.