BULGARIA ““ (BBC) The suicide bomber who killed six people in Bulgaria last week was part of a sophisticated group of conspirators, Prime Minister Boiko Borisov has said. He said the group had arrived in Bulgaria a month before the attack. But he declined to back Israeli claims that Iran and Lebanese militant group Hezbollah played
a role. Five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian bus driver died in last Wednesday’s bombing in Burgas on the Black Sea. The identity of the man who carried out the bombing remains unclear. As well as those killed, dozens of people were wounded in the blast. Mr. Borisov, who was speaking in Sofia alongside White House counter-terrorism chief John Brennan, said the US was supporting Bulgaria’s investigation into the attack. Mr. Borisov did not say exactly how many people had been involved in the conspiracy he described, but he said they had been “exceptionally skilled” and operated under “strict conspiracy rules” to keep the plot hidden. “There was no absolutely no chance of preventing such an act of violence,” the prime minister insisted. “We could have only detected it by chance or if we had been informed by the services that such activities were under way in Bulgaria.” Mr. Borisov also refused to back Israeli claims of involvement by Iran or Hezbollah, saying, “We do not want to get involved in this long-standing conflict as we are very vulnerable.”
GREECE ““ (BBC) Greece will suffer a much deeper recession than thought this year, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has said. He expects the economy to shrink by 7%, greater than the 5% forecast by the crisis-hit country’s central bank. Representatives of Greece’s three international lenders have arrived in Athens in a bid to get its deficit cutting measures “back on track.” Mr. Samaras criticized comments by some foreign officials for “undermining” Greece’s national effort. Without sufficient progress, it may not receive the final part of its bailout worth 31.5bn euros ($38bn). Assistance for Greece totaling 130bn euros was agreed in March, its second major rescue package, with strict conditions attached that force Greece to cut debt and spending. A deeper recession will not help Athens improve its performance, as it is already behind in its austerity plans because its economy is shrinking faster than forecast. Mr. Samaras said the country, which has been in recession for five years, would not return to growth until 2014. He is expected to ask for more time to repay its loans. Greece’s performance is being assessed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), European Central Bank (ECB), and European Commission, who together have been dubbed the troika. The IMF said it was “supporting Greece in overcoming its economic difficulties” and would work with the country to get it “back on track.” However, reports over the weekend suggested that the IMF would refuse calls for further aid.
KOSOVO ““ (BBC) UN chief Ban Ki-moon has said he is concerned about continuing tensions in northern Kosovo, home to many of the territory’s remaining ethnic Serbs. Making his first visit to Kosovo since it declared independence from Serbia in 2008, he called for the situation to be eased through peaceful dialogue. Serbs resisting rule from the ethnic Albanian majority have clashed with Nato-led peacekeepers in recent months. Serbia continues to regard Kosovo as a breakaway province. At issue has been control over northern border crossings used by ethnic Serbs to maintain close ties with Belgrade. The UN oversaw the creation of local authorities in Kosovo after the war in 1999 but has since handed over much of its power to EU bodies. “I remain concerned about the situation in north Kosovo and the escalation of tension during the last year,” Mr. Ban told reporters at the airport outside the Kosovan capital, Pristina. “It is essential that sensitive and complex issues related to the north of Kosovo be resolved through peaceful dialogue.”
RUSSIA ““ (BBC) Some 248 human fetuses have been found dumped in a forest in Russia. Officials say the remains are “biomedical waste” from at least three hospitals in the Urals region, where they were discovered. According to police, they were preserved with formaldehyde in four plastic barrels with tags listing surnames and numbers. Villagers made the discovery in woodland about 70 km (45 miles) north of the city of Yekaterinburg. Police said some of the lids on the barrels had come off and the contents were scattered on the floor of the forest. The health authorities say responsibility lies with the organization charged with the disposal of medical waste from the city’s hospitals. The remains have been placed in a morgue in the nearby town of Nevyansk for further examination.
SPAIN ““ (BBC) Spain and Germany sought to reassure investors that Spain would not need a full international bailout, after its borrowing costs hit a record high. German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble and his Spanish counterpart Luis de Guindos issued a statement. They said Tuesday’s record 7.6% yield on 10-year Spanish bonds ““ the government’s implied borrowing costs ““ did not reflect economic fundamentals. Mr. Guindos will meet French Finance Minister Laurent Fabius on Wednesday. Spain’s financial situation continues to worry investors, with borrowing costs rising and the Catalonia region saying it will need government funds. On Tuesday, Spain claimed Italy and France back a plan for the immediate implementation of measures agreed last month. These include aid directed at Spain’s banks without adding to national debt. Spain said there had been a “worrying delay” in executing the agreements thrashed out at the eurozone leaders’ summit on June 29. The main provision would be to allow the future European bailout fund, the ESM, to pour money directly into ailing banks such as those in Spain, circumventing national governments. “Speed is an essential condition for the success of any European action,” the statement released by the Spanish foreign ministry said.
UNITED KINGDOM ““ (BBC) Eight people, including Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson, will face a total of 19 charges related to phone hacking, the Crown Prosecution Service has said. The two ex-News of the World editors are to be charged in connection with the accessing of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler’s phone messages. They are among seven of the now-defunct paper’s former staff facing charges of conspiring to intercept voicemails. The CPS said the charges related to 600 alleged victims between 2000 and 2006. The others facing charges are former News of the World (NoW) managing editor Stuart Kuttner, former news editor Greg Miskiw, former assistant editor Ian Edmondson, former chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck, former assistant editor James Weatherup, and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire. The eight, who will be charged when they answer police bail, are due to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on August 16.