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 date: 3/22/2005 15:01 refid: 05SOFIA548 origin: Embassy Sofia classification: SECRET destination: 04SOFIA2054|04SOFIA2261|05SOFIA436|05SOFIA524 header: This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.   S E C R E T  SOFIA 000548    SIPDIS      FOR THE SECRETARY FROM AMBASSADOR PARDEW    E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/21/2015  TAGS: PREL, PGOV, MOPS, MARR, EFIN, LY, IZ, BU, EUN  SUBJECT: SCENESETTER FOR VISIT TO WASHINGTON OF BULGARIAN  FOREIGN MINISTER SOLOMON PASSY    REF: A) SOFIA 0524 B) SOFIA 0436 C) 04 SOFIA 2054       (NOTAL) D) 04 SOFIA 2261 D)    Classified By: Ambassador James Pardew, reasons 1.5(b) and (d).    -------  SUMMARY  -------     1. (C) SUMMARY.  Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Passy's  meeting with you on March 25 is an opportunity to shape  Bulgaria's commitment to the Iraq coalition as the government  searches for an exit strategy.  Passy has consistently been  the most pro-American voice in this government on the full  range of bilateral relations.  Though he will certainly raise  other issues, his primary purpose in requesting a meeting  with you is to secure an invitation to the White House before  Bulgaria's June 25 elections for the former king and current  Prime Minister, Simeon Saxe-Coburg Gotha.  We support a  Simeon-POTUS meeting because it is in our interest to see  Simeon's party do well in the upcoming elections, and because  it will help the government shore up support for its policy  on Iraq.  Passy and the government he represents now view  every issue through the lens of the June elections, which the  opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) would win if they  were held today.  The Socialists have made Bulgaria's  withdrawal from Iraq a major campaign theme.  The most recent  opinion poll shows that roughly two-thirds of the Bulgarian  population favors withdrawal from Iraq either immediately or  right after the June elections.  This, combined with the  killing of another Bulgarian soldier on March 4 , has put the  government on the defensive and led it to seek ways to  neutralize the war in Iraq as a campaign issue (refs A-B).    2. (C) The Council of Ministers is set to discuss an exit  strategy at its next meeting on March 24, and to decide the  issue on March 31.  Despite our repeated, high-level  recommendation that the government avoid a date certain and  instead focus on conditions in Iraq, the government may reach  a decision to withdraw Bulgarian forces from Iraq at the end  of 2005, when the fifth Bulgarian battalion completes its  scheduled six-month rotation.  Passy will be seeking concrete  "deliverables" from the U.S. that the ruling party can use  with the electorate to counter the perception that this  government has received nothing in return for its sacrifices  in Iraq.  Deputy Secretary Zoellick will meet with President  Purvanov, the Prime Minister and Passy in Sofia on March 30.  END SUMMARY.    ----------------  WHAT PASSY WANTS  ----------------    3. (C) This government has felt for months that its  contributions to the Coalition in Iraq and the broader war on  terrorism are under-appreciated by the U.S. (refs C-D).  Passy is likely to repeat the theme that his government needs  concrete benefits to show Bulgarian voters that their country  is a valuable member of the Coalition.  In the past, this  list included reconstruction contracts for Bulgarian  companies, repayment of Iraqi debt, inclusion in the Visa  Waiver Program, negotiation of a treaty on the avoidance of  double taxation, and help with the release of the Bulgarian  medics in Libya.  Passy is realistic enough to know that debt  repayment and  the visa waiver are probably non-starters at  this point, but that will not stop him from pressing for a  concrete demonstration of U.S. support.  At the top of his  list will be a White House meeting for the Prime Minister.  Simeon badly wants such a meeting, and has approached us  through Passy and other trusted confidants.  The Prime  Minister knows that President Purvanov beat him to the punch  by formally requesting a meeting with President Bush through  Bulgaria's ambassador in Washington last January.  Purvanov,  the former leader of the BSP, has taken a responsible  position on Iraq and also deserves a meeting.  However, we do  not recommend a Parvanov visit until after the Bulgarian  elections, because a White House meeting would give a  political boost to the Socialists    -----------------------------  WHAT'S DRIVING THE GOVERNMENT  -----------------------------    4. (C) Simeon's interest in meeting POTUS is two-fold: to  dispel the notion that Bulgaria is not a valued ally of the  United States, and to help close the gap between his party  and the Socialists on the eve of elections.  We see both      goals as being in the U.S. interest.  First, a White House  meeting at this stage in the domestic debate over Iraq will  help shore up support for a significant Bulgarian presence in  Iraq, at least until key political milestones are reached.  And second, closing the gap between the Prime Minister's  party and the Socialists favors our interests after June 25.  Inside the government, the Prime Minister's party will be a  force for continuity in foreign policy.  While a Socialist  victory would not be a total disaster for us, it would make  our job much more difficult on a wide range of issues we care  about.      5. (C)  The current government has a record that most  politicians would be glad to run on:  steady five-percent  economic growth, low inflation, falling unemployment, a  stable currency, booming real estate and tourism sectors,  NATO membership, the best relationship with the U.S. in  Bulgaria's history, and -- as of April 25 -- the signing of  Bulgaria's EU Accession Treaty.  Yet they have so far been  unable to translate these successes into electoral support,  in part because they are a new party without strong  grassroots organization and in part because the Prime  Minister himself is remarkably passive.  If Passy complains  about the need for deliverables to shore up public support,  you can point out that an effective domestic campaign is more  important to their political future than a single meeting.    -----------------------  ISSUES YOU SHOULD RAISE  -----------------------    6. (C) The U.S. military's investigation into the killing of  Bulgarian Sergeant Gurdi Gurdev on March 4 is not complete as  of this writing, but you should express our condolences for  this, the eighth Bulgarian soldier killed in Iraq.  You  should praise Passy for Bulgaria's deployment of troops in  Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, and Bosnia, as well as their  initial contribution of five trainers to the NATO mission in  Iraq.  Bulgaria will also take over responsibility for  security of the Kabul airport in 2006.    7. (C) On Iraq, you should encourage Passy to link Bulgaria's  withdrawal to a set of conditions in Iraq, rather an  arbitrary date certain.  In Sofia we have advised them to  link their strategy to the approval of a constitution, the  holding of parliamentary elections under that constitution  and the development of the Iraqi security forces.  In the  meantime, they should maintain their battalion-strength  capability in Diwania and start planning for a significant  increase in their contribution to the NATO training mission.    8. (S) You should note that cooperation between our  intelligence services in the global war on terrorism has been  extraordinary.    9. (C) You should assure Passy that we will follow through  vigorously on our efforts to secure the release of six  Bulgarian nurses held in Libya for seven years on charges of  infecting some 400 children with HIV.  This is an issue that  touches ordinary Bulgarians deeply, and it is hard to imagine  an area where the U.S. could potentially gain more goodwill  with Bulgarians across the political spectrum.  It is also an  area where we have been forthcoming.  Passy will thank you  for U.S. support and Ambassador Bill Burns' personal  attention to this issue.  Finally, the one area where this  government has fallen short of expectations is in  strengthening the rule of law.  Corruption and organized  crime are endemic here, and the government has done little to  stem the tide.  If there is a shortcoming that could hamper  Bulgaria's political and economic development, this is it.    10. (SBU) Deputy Secretary Zoellick will meet in Sofia March  30 with the President Purvanov, the Prime Minister and Passy. 

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