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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Bulgarian Bases To Be Modernized for American Use

AFP: Bulgaria and the United States June 27 announced plans to modernize three military bases for use by U.S. forces at a cost of tens of millions of dollars.

Bulgarian Defense Minister Vesselin Bliznakov said an accord signed here in April by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice would soon be implemented.

”We foresee upgrades on the bases in the range of tens of millions of dollars,” said John Beyrle, U.S. ambassador to the former Soviet bloc state.

He said advantages to Bulgaria would include improved infrastructure facilities, job creation for local labor and the future presence of several thousand U.S. servicemen contributing to increasing consumer spending.

Bliznakov said a U.S. mission was scheduled Wednesday at an airfield at Bezmer to carry out an assessment of its modernization needs.

Other projects under the April agreement are the upgrading of an airfield at Graf-Ignatievo and a shooting range at Novo Selo, as well as use of an arms depot at Aitos.

”This year has been something like the springtime of American investment in Bulgaria, with the flowering of several large and important projects that have been in development for several years,” said Beyrle.

These included start to construction of a $1.4 billion (1.08 billion euro) power station by the American company AES, the biggest foreign investment in Bulgaria.

The envoy also noted the recent opening of a regional maintenance center run by the U.S. company Hewlett Packard which will employ 1,000 local staff.

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