U.S. President George Bush has returned to the White House after completing an eight-day trip to Europe.
His final stop was Bulgaria on Monday where he held talks with Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov. In a news conference in Sofia, Mr. Bush again urged Russia to cooperate in developing a missile defense system in Europe. The president then sought to ease Bulgarian concerns that the Balkan country will not benefit from the defense shield. He suggested that Bulgaria could benefit from other systems against intermediate range missiles.
Russia has strongly opposed the U.S. plan to deploy the missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic, calling it the start of a new arms race. But at talks last week at the Group of Eight summit in Germany, Mr. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to have a working group discuss the issue, including a Russian proposal for use of Soviet-era radar in Azerbaijan.
In his comments in Sofia, Mr. Bush praised Bulgaria for participating in military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. He repeated that the time for Kosovo independence is now. He also said five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor who face death sentences in Libya should be released. The five have been convicted of infecting children with AIDS.
The United States and many other countries dispute the Libyan charges against the health workers, and are demanding their immediate freedom.
Mr. Parvanov thanked President Bush for his support in trying to gain the release of the medical workers in Libya.
He also said he was grateful to have U.S. support to better achieve modernization of the armed forces so Bulgaria could participate in its international obligations.
In addition to attending the G-8 summit in Germany, Mr. Bush also made stops in Poland, Italy and Albania on this trip.