Skip to comments.Parliament probes BARRELGATE [Bulgaria Iraq Zebari]
Posted on 02/16/2004 8:06:08 AM PST by syriacus
PARLIAMENT has decided to set up a temporary committee to investigate allegations that the Bulgarian Socialist Party received 12 million barrels of petrol from Saddam Hussein's regime.
The decision on the committee was taken with 125 votes for, 24 against, and 32 abstentions. The membership of the committee will be decided upon on Friday.
The proposal for it was made by MPs from the right-wing Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) and was supported by the BSP.
The majority National Movement Simeon II (NSMII), however, initially did not support the idea. Last week the Speaker of Parliament, Ognyan Gerdjikov, opposed the creation of such a committee, saying that by the same token Parliament should have formed a committee to look into the alleged $200 000 donation from controversial businessman Michael Chorny to the UDF-aligned Democracy Foundation. This week, however, the NMSII group decided to support the UDF proposal.
According to the deputy floor leader of the group, Borislav Tsekov, the allegations about the donation of petrol were not only about the financing of one of Bulgaria's major parties.
"The more important reason is that these allegations, before they are denied or proven, will cast their shadow over the otherwise consistent foreign policy of Bulgaria and its Euro-Atlantic commitments," Tsekov said.
In an interview with Bulgarian National Radio (BNR), Tsekov said the NMSII had agreed to a proposal by UDF MP Dimitar Abadjiev that the committee should consist of an equal number of MPs from each group to prevent the tipping of the balance in favour of one party or another. Tsekov said that after its establishment, the committee would demand all information from all state institutions and services as well as from foreign sources.
Meanwhile the controversy developed further after it emerged that one of the members of the BSP Supreme Council (SC), Zahari Zahariev, was an intermediary in a deal under the UN petrol-for-food programme between Iraq and a Bulgarian company, Mashinoexport, controlled by Dimitar Mandjukov, who is allegedly connected to the BSP.
Mandjukov is the publisher of the party newspaper, Duma. He is also a weapons dealer, owns the BBT cable television channel, has interests in the telecommunications sector and has been awarded by President Georgi Purvanov the Stara Planina order for his contributions to journalism in Bulgaria. But Mandjukov said that he had made only a little profit from the sale of the one million barrels of petrol and had not used it to sponsor the BSP.
Mandjukov said he would sue anyone who tried to say anything negative about his companies.
Both Mandjukov and Zahariev denied having involved the name of the BSP in the deal or having negotiated with Iraq outside the UN programme.
In an interview with the bTV morning talk show, Zahariev said he did not use the name of the BSP while carrying out the deal and his actions had not been in his capacity as a member of its SC. He said he had briefed BSP leader Sergei Stanishev and was ready to take political responsibility for his actions.
This week BSP officials said that Stanishev should expel Zahariev from the party. Stanishev, however, refused and said the leadership did not want to look for scapegoats. During this week's meeting of the SC, the BSP officially announced that it would stop discussing the subject, saying that it was a part of a smear campaign against them.
"Perhaps we will not be able to rub off this greasy spot on our image but we should know that it is nothing compared to what lies ahead," Stanishev said.
In spite the decision of the SC, BSP deputy leader Rumen Ovcharov once more explained the position of the party on the issue.
According to him, the smear campaign against the BSP was a smear campaign against Bulgaria because apart from being socialist, the party is also Bulgarian and currently has the largest support, according to opinion polls.
Ovcharov said that apparently someone had an interest in destabilising the country by attacking the biggest party and the most stable institution - the President.
"The attack is against the BSP and the President," Ovcharov said. "Which is the institution which has the highest authority and keeps the country from falling apart - the President."
Meanwhile UDF deputy leader Yordan Bakalov said he expected a further round of the controversy, involving weapons.
According to Bakalov, the Bulgarian ambassador to Algeria, Venelin Petrov had been working for one of the weapon dealing companies of Mandjukov, Norwood.
Bakalov said that as a representative of Norwood, Petrov had visited Iraq on a number of occasions. Bakalov urged the special services to make the necessary inquiry.
Petrov was appointed as ambassador by Purvanov last summer.
In an interview with the Darik national radio, Petrov said he had been to Iraq once in the mid-1990s and tried unsuccessfully to make a deal involving medicines.
He said he has been making deals on behalf of Norwood without being its representative. Petrov said that the deals had been for weapons for the Algerian army.
Meanwhile, during a visit to Bulgaria last week, Iraqi foreign minister Hoshiar Zebari said that the information about the petrol transactions had been published by what he described as an independent and respected Iraqi newspaper.
According to Zebari, there was another list with names of various politicians who received gifts from the Saddam Hussein regime, which would be published within several days.
Zebari said that the Iraqi government would try to get back the resources wasted by the previous regime and would fully co-operate with the interested parties to find the truth.
Meanwhile, the Editor-in-Chief of Iraqi daily Al-Sabah, Ismail Zair, said that there was another list of foreigners who had been serving as agents of the Iraqi secret services.
According to Zair, there was also the name of a Bulgarian who is "a Bulgarian professor who has connections with (former US president) Bill Clinton, has been frequently travelling to Iraq and has been writing reports for Iraqi intelligence."
BSP on the counter-attack, Christina Dimitrova
BULGARIAN Socialist Party leader Sergei Stanishev, battling to lift the party out of the controversy into which it has been dumped by allegations it accepted myriad barrels of oil from Saddam Hussein's regime, has vowed to rid the BSP of members who "stick their fingers in the honey".
He also pledged to oust from the party those who get involved in nepotism.
At the same time, the BSP has set its cap at precipitating early parliamentary elections. The decision on this course of action was taken at a party seminar this past weekend.
Several days earlier, however, Stainshev did not heed the advice of party members who wanted him to take action against Zahari Zahariev whose name was linked to the Saddam Hussein-Barrelgate scandal.[excerpt]
The latest revelation to emerge from Iraq is provided by the Baghdad-based newspaper Al-Mada, which recently published the names of more than 200 individuals and organizations in more than 40 countries who are alleged to have received oil payoffs from Saddam Hussein in exchange for their support. It could represent just the tip of the iceberg, in terms of showing how Saddam used his petroleum and cash to purchase friends and favors.
One of the Iraqi intelligence agents that worked abroad was a Bulgarian Professor, who had close relations with former US President Bill Clinton, Editor-in-Chief of Iraqi newspaper Al Sabah Ismail Zahir told Bulgarian bTV channel on Saturday.
He added that the Al Mada newspaper had the names of secret Iraqi agents listed, and was going to publish the information soon.
That Bulgarian man was in close contact with former US President Bill Clinton, and also often visited Iraq and wrote reports for the country's intelligence, Zahir insisted.
Petrov didn't care for Maureen Dowd's opinion, I guess...
I am writing to express my outrage at Bush's Warsaw Pact written by Ms. Maureen Dowd, an article which unjustly demeans Bulgaria and its people. In fact, it is o-ne of the most insulting, hate-spewing and incompetent pieces of journalism I have ever read.
Ms. Dowd is obviously frustrated with the US stance toward Iraq and the way the USA is disregarding its longstanding Western allies in an attempt to legitimize the war effort. But the contemptuous bashing and defamation of Bulgaria in the lowest of ways because of its support for the war is nothing but poor, biased and vulgar journalism. While sneering at Bulgaria, the "pipsqueak power" and "minnow" as Ms. Dowd arrogantly put it, this article reeks of Big Power chauvinism--paradoxically enough, exactly the thing this journalist seems to be fighting against.
I am also against the war. However, that does not make me anti-American in any way. Unlike Ms. Dowd, I would never stoop so low as to slander and disrespect the USA and its people just because I disagree with o-ne particular aspect of this administration's foreign policy. The USA stands for much more than just the war against Iraq. So does Bulgaria stand for much more than its communist legacy and past political faux pas; my country has made an impressive progress in its democratic development over o-nly a decade but, in Ms. Dowd's opinion, that's probably not worth a mention. [excerpt]
Columbia Business School
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