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Powell Praises Bulgaria on Iraq

July 22, 2004

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Secretary of State Colin Powell praised Bulgaria on Thursday for keeping its troops in Iraq, saying the show of resolve contrasts sharply with the Philippines’ recent surrender to kidnapper demands.

He said the Philippines went down ``a very bad and slippery slope″ by agreeing to the early departure of its 51 peacekeepers from Iraq in exchange for the release of a Filipino truck driver who had been taken hostage.

Powell spoke to reporters after a meeting with Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Passy.

He expressed sadness over the recent kidnapping of two Bulgarians by militants in Iraq. One has been murdered and the fate of the second is not clear.

Despite these incidents, the Bulgarian government and people have remained firm, Powell said.

``They would not be intimidated by kidnappers, they would not be intimidated by terrorists,″ he said. ``They did not walk away from the challenge that they are helping us meet.″

Negotiating with kidnappers only encourages them, he said.

Passy said Bulgaria faced a difficult choice in weighing whether to meet a terrorist demand for withdrawal of the country’s 480 troops from Iraq.

In the end, he said, ``We accepted our principles and our values, and we shall not open the door to anybody to blackmail our principles and values.″

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