SOFIA, Bulgaria -- Bulgaria said Saturday it will provide three military bases
for use by U.S. forces.
American officials have said they could use Bulgarian sites to deploy troops
on rotational training tours as part of a broader U.S. strategy of shifting
troops based in Europe further east.
An American team was expected in Bulgaria next week to discuss the bases, senior
military officials have said.
Defense Minister Nikolai Svinarov said three bases will be offered to the Americans
but "it remains to be determined which bases are to be chosen," according
to the state news agency, BTA.
Parliament has the final say on the deployment of foreign troops, he said,
adding a decision would be made by the end of the year.
Bulgaria, which joined NATO last year along with six other ex-communist nations,
has declared its willingness to provide training grounds for U.S. troops.
Washington is interested in small, flexible bases, different from those set
up to house large numbers of troops during the Cold War.
Earlier this year, the top commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Europe, General
James Jones, said in Sofia he would propose to the U.S. Congress "four
or five Bulgarian military facilities for use by U.S. forces."
Jones visited three possible locations -- the Bezmer air base and the Novo
Selo training area in southeastern Bulgaria, and the Black Sea port of Burgas.
Other possible options mentioned by military officials are the Graf Ignatievo
air base in southern Bulgaria, the Black Sea base Atia and the nearby Sarafovo
airport, used already by the United States to station refueling aircraft during
operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.