388. Telegram From the Embassy in Bulgaria to the Department of State1

509/Depto 10028.


  • Deputy Seceretary Whitehead’s Private Meeting With F.M. Mladenov on Terrorism.


  • State 15498.2
Confidential—Entire text.
After meeting with Deputy Secretary’s party (reported septel)3 Foreign Minister Mladenov asked the Deputy Secretary and Ambassador to stay behind for a private chat. With Deputy Foreign Minister Gotsev and interpreter only others present, Mladenov provided GOB response to Ambassador’s recent demarche on terrorism (reftel). Mladenov made the following points:
After the U.S. demarche, the MFA was concerned with the factual side of the issue, particularly regarding the alleged use of Bulgarian weapons in specific terrorist incidents. Mladenov ordered an immediate investigation and also discussed the issue with Chairman Zhivkov.
It was true that Bulgaria manufactures and sells weapons, grenades and rifles. The list of purchasers includes Iraq, Nigeria, Libya and the PLO. Its sales to the PLO are to Arafat’s faction, not to Abu Nidal. In response to the Deputy Secretary’s question Mladenov repeated that Bulgaria does not sell weapons to Abu Nidal faction.
Bulgaria considers that these sales are legitimate. The sales are accompanied by certificates and documents which “demand” from the purchaser that the weapons not be resold.
However, the GOB realizes that it is difficult to trace the movement of weapons after their sale. This means that the GOB cannot preclude the possibility that Bulgarian weapons have ended up in the hands of terrorist groups. He said he was sure that we and other countries, even Israel, experienced the same problem. But, he emphasized, it was not GOB policy that such transfers be made. He said he was afraid that in such cases the weapons had “just been given.”
If the U.S. had information about arms transfers to terrorist groups like Abu Nidal, it should inform the GOB. The GOB was “prepared to impose sanctions” on any purchaser which sold or gave weapons to terrorists. He reiterated that he had spoken to Zhivkov about this.
The problem was delicate and he hoped that the U.S. would treat it with discretion and without publicity. The GOB was ready for further contacts and discussions with the Embassy and USG experts on this subject. The GOB sought ways to find solutions to the problem through discussions with us.
The Deputy Secretary thanked Mladenov for his detailed response to our demarche. He said he thought it was a good response but wished to make one important point. As long as Bulgaria continued to sell weapons to countries like Libya whose national policies were to support terrorism it would be difficult to stop these weapons from being used by terrorists. The Foreign Minister could imagine the reaction of the USG and the American public to information that Bulgarian weapons were employed in attacks in which American citizens were killed. There were ways to ensure oneself better that arms were not transferred to terrorists, for example, through requiring arms purchasers to report regularly on disposition of weapons and their use, as well as through the receipt of inventories of weapons sold.
The Deputy Secretary emphasized that it was in Bulgaria’s interest to deal seriously with this problem since Bulgaria’s reputation as a nation was damaged by the use of its weapons in these attacks.
Mladenov said the GOB did take this issue seriously and repeated GOB willingness to have discussions with the USG to find ways to deal with it. He suggested that Gotsev and the next U.S. Ambassador remain the channel for such discussions, with U.S. and Bulgarian experts taking part as well.
The Deputy Secretary said we favored regular consultations on terrorism. While we could not divulge our sources of information, we could discuss terrorist incidents and weapons sales with the GOB with an aim to finding solutions to the problem. Mladenov agreed with this approach.
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, D870425–0219. Confidential; Immediate; Exdis.
  2. See Document 387.
  3. See Document 390.