Bulgaria 's Surplus Arms Stockpile Poses Risk, Says Report Dow_Jones - 2004/4/7
Bulgarian and U.K. experts warned Tuesday of security risks posed by large stockpiles of weapons left in the wake of Bulgaria 's military reforms.

As part of its integration into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Bulgaria reduced its armed forces from 100,000 to 45,000, which left between 300,000 and 350,000 light weapons in surplus stockpiles, a report by the Bulgarian Center for the Study of Democracy and the U.K. Saferworld group said.

Thousands of tons of ammunition also lie in military warehouses.

While arms export controls are relatively strict and Bulgaria 's share in illicit trade is insignificant, no mechanisms exist to oversee internal flows of arms.

The two NGOs are calling for tighter control of small arms and more transparency in arms trade in Bulgaria .

"Despite its relatively clean record in arms export, the Bulgarian government should do more to combat small arms proliferation," the report said.

"With the intensification of the terror threat we need to make sure that our weapons would go to our friends and that our soldiers would not get shot at with Bulgarian-made rifles," said Philip Gunev, one of the authors of the report.

New NATO member Bulgaria has sent troops for peacekeeping operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo and Bosnia.

Bulgarian government officials denied any major problems with small arms proliferation.

"In Bulgaria there are no coherent and sustainable criminal gangs dealing with arms trafficking," said Rumen Milanov, chief of a special police anticrime unit.

But the report mentioned several cases of illegal arms production by former employees of once booming military factories producing Soviet-style handguns and assault rifles.

"One cannot find out who is producing arms or what arms are produced and sold on the home market," Gunev said.



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