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Bulgaria set to buy new F-16 fighter jets

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The Bulgarian parliament overturned President Rumen Radev’s veto of a deal to purchase eight F-16 fighter jets from United States to replace its ageing Soviet-made MiG-29s and improve its compliance with NATO standards.

A deal for Lockheed Martin’s F-16V Block 70 would be worth around 1.8 billion levs ($1.1 billion), Bulgaria’s biggest military purchase since the fall of Communism. The government agreed the deal following a long-running saga that has seen a succession of Bulgarian governments fail to make a decision on which warplane to pick.

But, President Rumen Radev vetoed a decision by parliament to approve the deal, describing a lack of consensus on the contracts as extremely worrying.

The motion to overrule the veto was passed by 128 votes in the 240-seat parliament, bringing together MPs from the ruling center-right GERB party, two allies in the nationalist United Patriots formation and opposition deputies from the Movement for Rights and Freedoms.

Other bidders had included Sweden, with Saab’s Gripen jets, and Italy, with second-hand Eurofighters. Senior defense ministry and army officials say the F-16 is a multi-role fighter plane that had been tested in battle and had a long lifespan.

President Radev, a former air force commander and frequent critic of Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, is believed to favor the Swedish bid and has criticized the process as flawed and “a triumph of lobbying”.  

Critics have questioned whether the United States can deliver the first two F-16 jets within two years as required and pointed to a U.S. proposal for a one-off payment upon contracting rather than offering a long-term payment scheme as preferred in the tender.

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Serbian president makes unannounced visit to New York

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Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic is heading to New York for talks with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the UN headquarters.

The main topic for discussion at the meeting, slated for Tuesday, is the situation in Kosovo.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will address the UN Security Council on Tuesday in a speech that will focus on Iran after the recent tanker attacks near the Strait of Hormuz. The US diplomat will speak during a council meeting about challenges to peace and security in the Middle East.

Pompeo’s trip to the UN comes after skirmishes in the Gulf over the summer that have heightened the prospect of US military action against Tehran. The Secretary will also meet with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on the sidelines of the event.

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Bulgarian police seize 120.000 fake euros and Macedonian denars

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Bulgarian police have reportedly seized 122.000 euros in fake banknotes and arrested a group of suspected distributors of counterfeit currency.

Six people were taken into custody on Friday after officers raided an apartment and found counterfeit currency. The cash included banknotes of 200 euros – adding up to a total face of 122.000, Bgnews agency said on Friday.

During the raid, officers also seized mobile phones, copies of checks from a Turkish bank, US dollars, Macedonian denars.

According to investigation findings, the group of counterfeiters was set up in 2018. They are accused of taking part in crime group, possession and distribution of counterfeit euro banknotes on the territory of Bulgaria.

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Emergency Declared in Serbian Municipality Due to Oil Spill in Moravica River

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State of emergency has been declared on Wednesday in Serbia’s Ivanjica (Western Serbia) after 70 tonnes of waste oil spilled into the Moravica River, the national RTS TV channel reported.

“Waste oil spilled into the Moravica River. Ecological and communal inspectors reacted immediately. For now, I cannot name the cause or who is to blame. It is vital for us to stop the spillage of oil into the Moravica, as this river flows into the Rivers Arilje, Pozega and Chachaka, which can result in an ecological catastrophe in the whole of Western Serbia,” an official said.

According to the TV channel, it was the oil stored for winter in one of the enterprises that spilled into the river. Rescue teams are at the scene, trying to collect the oil products from the water surface.

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