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STUTTGART, Germany — The U.S. is optimistic that it will sign an agreement with Bulgaria in late April to use bases in the eastern European nation for ongoing military training.

If the final details of the lengthy negotiations are agreed upon, the signing could take place during a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in the Bulgarian capital.

“The negotiations are moving along well,” said David Siefkin, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Bulgaria. “We hope they will be concluded shortly, in time to be signed during the NATO [meeting of foreign ministers] that Sofia is hosting in April.”

Bulgarian Defense Minister Veselin Bliznakov, in an interview published Monday with the Bulgarian newspaper Dnevnik, said that an agreement was very likely.

“There is no longer doubt that the bases will be at Bezmer and Novo Selo (in southern Bulgaria),” Bliznakov said, according to Reuters. “They will be controlled by Bulgarian commanders and with small number of troops.

“If we need to discuss more details, we will have another round of talks. We have the political will to finalize the talks as soon as possible.”

John R. Beryle, the U.S. ambassador to Bulgaria, said in remarks made Jan. 24 to the American Chamber of Commerce in Bulgaria that he looked forward to an April signing that would enable “American forces to use Bulgarian bases for training our military forces.”

“These shared bases will help keep our forces ready in the event of future crises, and will give the Bulgarian armed forces the opportunity to train together with ours,” Beryle said.

“Our goal is to help Bulgaria to become a full partner in Euro-Atlantic political and security structures,” he said.

If a deal is reached, it would mark the second time that a nation of the former Soviet bloc agreed to continuously host brigade-size rotations of U.S. troops. In December, the U.S. signed an agreement with Romania to create shared military facilities there. The agreement with Romania would allow training, pre-positioning of equipment and, if necessary, staging and deploying of U.S. forces.

In both nations, the bases would be used by troops who rotate into the facilities for tours of up to six months.

The bases, which the military calls forward operating sites, would not have schools and family housing like U.S. garrisons elsewhere in Europe. The tours would be unaccompanied — troops would not be bringing family members with them.

The moves are part of a desire by the U.S. military to train more effectively and, if necessary, respond more quickly to areas east and south of central Europe, where thousands of U.S. troops have been stationed since World War II to defend against attacks from the former Soviet bloc.


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