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         Vice Adm. Petur Petrov to head Bulgaria's NATO negotiation team

         Bulgaria to upgrade military equipment


         Prime Minister Blair says EU military force will not conflict with NATO

         French defense minister asserts France's key role in European defense


         UN claims divided Kosovo city of Mitrovica


          Dutch parliamentarians approve joint Afghan force command plan


         Britain preparing for mobilization of reserve forces to support war against Iraq

         Germany says Israel requests commitment of Patriot missiles 




         According to Sofia's Dnevnik, Nov. 25,   Vice Adm. Petur Petrov has confirmed that he will head the team for negotiations with NATO on membership.  He reportedly said the team will include one representative from each department of the General Staff, as well as from the commands of the three services.  The group will comprise about 10 officers.  It has reportedly been planned to establish two more teams in the Defense and Foreign Affairs Ministries.  Petrov was quoted saying that the first contacts related to the negotiations were expected within the next 10-15 days.  Most probably, they would take place after a Nov. 29 visit to Bulgaria by Gen. Ralston.   The daily added that it is expected that 54 military personnel and 17 civilians will represent Bulgaria in NATO structures.  Six officers and five NCOs will be sent to SHAPE headquarters and six officers and one NCOS to AFSOUTH.  Eight officers will be appointed to international positions in NATO command units.


         Stressing that Bulgaria is upgrading its military equipment, Sofia's Monitor, Nov. 24, quoted sources in the General Staff saying that the Air Sovereignty Operational Center (ASOS) is being built as a priority project.   The center could exchange information on air traffic with the respective centers of NATO member states, said the report, adding that the Integrated Field, Communication, and Information System (IFCIS) is also about to be introduced in the Ground Troops units.  Thirty two million leva had also been allocated to repairing and upgrading six MiG-29 fighters. The report noted, however, that the aircraft have not yet been upgraded to meet the requirements of the Alliance and the Air Force.




         AFP writes that Prime Minister Blair rushed to the defense of the EU Rapid Reaction Force Monday, saying it would not conflict with the Rapid Response Force being put together by NATO allies.  "It is extremely important that we can push forward European defense," Blair reportedly told the House of commons as he reported on the Prague summit, adding: "There are going to be circumstances where Europe is able to act but for example, because of American unwillingness to act, NATO is not willing to act.  In those circumstances, it makes perfect sense for European defense to take this over.  It is not creating some sort of 'Euro army.'" 


         In a question-and-answer interview in Le Figaro, French Defense Minister Alliot-Marie asserts her country's key role in European defense.  Asked how France can help boost the defense of Europe, she highlights that for the past six months, France has again performed the role of framework nation with a view to building the defense of Europe. She adds:  "The inventory of shortcomings is making headway. We vigorously support cooperation programs.  This is particularly the case with the A400M military transport aircraft, which combines strong political visibility with the identification of an established operational need.  Some new programs have been launched, such as the multi-mission frigate. We have also made progress in the field of military command.  The issue that arises now is the clarity of the first external operation. The first external operation, perhaps in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia . could provide an opportunity for this."




         According to the BBC World Service, the UN mission in Kosovo says it has assumed full control of the divided city of Mitrovica, following an agreement with the Serbian government.  Following a series of talks between the Serbian government and UN officials, Serbia has reportedly let the UN take full administrative control of the north of the city.  It has closed down a municipal office and has handed over the keys to UN officials.  UNMIK chief Michael Steiner announced that the UN had taken full control of the Kosovo for the first time since the end of the war, the broadcast added.  It stressed that the fact that the handover took place unopposed by local gangs is seen as evidence that Mitrovica's hardliners have been sidelined by the Serbian government. 




         Hilversum Radio reported that by an overwhelming majority, the Lower house of the Dutch Parliament has approved a German-Dutch command for ISAF in Kabul. The House also agreed to the extension of the current Dutch participation in the security force.  A related article in De Volkskrant noted that parliamentarians stressed that the operation must be limited to six months and be limited to Kabul.  The newspaper recalls that the UN is currently discussing the possibility of an extension of the force's mandate to other parts of Afghanistan. But, it adds, Foreign Minister De Hoop Scheffer expects that this idea will be rejected. 







         It emerged Monday that Britain is preparing for the mobilization of reserve forces to support a war against Iraq, writes the Financial Times. The newspaper further reports that Prime Minister Blair told Parliament terrorism and weapons of mass destruction had to be "defeated utterly" and said NATO's recent Prague summit had produced a profound demonstration of unity.  The article notes that Blair was speaking before seeking Parliament's formal backing to allow military action if Iraq failed to comply with the UN Security Council's requirements on prohibited weapons.


         According to AP, the German Defense Ministry confirmed Tuesday that Israel has requested that Germany put at its disposal Patriot anti-aircraft missiles to help defend it against any Iraqi attack if war breaks out in the Middle East.  "We are currently examining" the request, a ministry spokesman reportedly said, on condition of anonymity.   He declined to say when it was made or to give further details.  Without naming sources, Die Welt reports that Israel wants the missiles to strengthen its defense against Iraqi missiles.  Similar information is carried by Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung. 






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