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Bulgaria: Foreign Minister Sees Security Council Unity Intact

Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi says he's confident the UN Security Council will solve the Iraq crisis through consensus. Despite clear divisions among members about using the lever of military force, Pasi says there is a common desire to achieve Iraqi disarmament. He spoke with RFE/RL at UN headquarters after a series of high-level meetings with his Security Council counterparts.

United States, 21 January 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi says he expects the UN Security Council to maintain a united front on Iraq despite the current differences among some council members.

Pasi participated in yesterday's special Security Council session on terrorism. He also took part in a series of talks on the margins of that meeting, including bilateral consultations with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and the foreign ministers of France, Spain, Pakistan, and Mexico.

He told RFE/RL in an interview afterward that the discussions made him more optimistic about the prospects of the council reaching consensus on Iraq.

"I think the international community is very seriously concerned about what is going on in Iraq, and I think that now there is a common understanding that we shall have to reach the consensus," Pasi said. "My impression is the Security Council is concerned more than ever for the consensus, and I think this is for the good of the Council and for the good of the United Nations."

Pasi added that there is a certain deja vu in the latest debate among Security Council members. He recalled last autumn's intense discussions in which the United States appeared to be pushing for a quick resolution authorizing military force. The council eventually reached agreement on a resolution calling for a tough new inspection regime in Iraq and threatening "serious consequences" if Iraq failed to comply.

Bulgaria, a nonpermanent Security Council member, cast one of the 15 unanimous votes approving Resolution 1441 in November, after nearly two months of talks.

Pasi said: "At the end of the day, we adopted the second option, and now everybody realizes this is the good approach. I think that now in this case it is worth spending some more time in order to get a wider consensus on what is to be done in Iraq."

Pasi said Bulgaria hopes the Iraqi crisis will be solved peacefully. But he said this depends greatly on Iraqi cooperation with Resolution 1441.

Pasi said if the international community decides to use military force, Bulgaria would consider providing assistance similar to that rendered during the Persian Gulf War 12 years ago.

In his meeting with Powell yesterday, the Bulgarian foreign minister described the processes involved for Bulgaria to legally take part in any coalition effort against Iraq, including the need for parliamentary approval.

"In case there is an action and in case there is a coalition -- in this case, obviously, as an ally of NATO and the United States -- Bulgaria would be there after the relevant decisions of the government and the parliament, and in this case, we would provide the air corridor," he said.

Pasi said he believes the Bulgarian public, generally supportive of the country's efforts at Euro-Atlantic integration, will back government actions on Iraq. "I think that the public opinion is more or less well-educated, and I think that our action will find the necessary support."

Most recently, Bulgaria offered its air-base facilities as a refueling site for war planes taking part in the U.S.-led operation against the former Taliban rulers of Afghanistan. Bulgaria also sent a unit trained in nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons to assist coalition forces in Afghanistan.

Bulgaria is one of seven former communist states invited to join NATO at the Prague summit in November. It is to be formally admitted in May 2004.