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Bush Voices Support for Democracy in Bulgaria

September 28, 1990

WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Bush told the new president of Bulgaria today that democratic reforms in his country have ″the full support of the American people.″

President Zhelyu Zhelev assured Bush, ″This country is no longer a communist, a totalitarian state.″

″We’re anxious to see this democratic change solidified,″ Bush told Zhelev during a brief Oval Office meeting. ″We have great respect for what you’re trying to do. ... The changes in Eastern Europe have really captured the imagination of the American people.″

The Bulgarian leader assured Bush during a photo session before their meeting that his country ″has embarked fully on the road to democracy.

″This is a symbolic visit because the greatest democracy in the world is extending a helpful hand to the youngest democracy in the world,″ he added.

Zhelev is concluding five days in Washington with his top economic advisers was heading to meetings at United Nations in New York and an address to the General Assembly.

Zhelev said Thursday that Bulgaria is prepared to send a contingent of ground troops to join forces with the United States and other countries defending Saudi Arabia and enforcing U.N. sanctions against Iraq. The plan has been delayed to discuss minimizing hardship for about 700 Bulgarian specialists in Iraqi-held territory, he said.

A group of U.S. economists is working with the Bulgarians on economic reform proposals for discussion by Bulgaria’s first democratically-chosen parliament in more than 40 years.

Zhelev said he wants to create a climate for foreign investment, and favors ″privatizing as widely as possible,″ not only large industries and agriculture but also private hospitals and schools.

The president leaves Washington with State Department assurances of food aid for the winter.

Zhelev, 55, head of the United Democratic Forces opposition, was elected president of the Balkan country Aug. 1 after five earlier unsuccessful attempts in parliament to choose a new chief state. The body is dominated by members of the former ruling communist party who have renamed themselves the Socialist Party.

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