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A Libyan court on Saturday rescheduled the hearing of the appeal by five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor charged with infecting Libyan children with HIV, a Bulgarian government official said. Foreign ministry spokesman Dimitar Tsantchev said the hearing has been set now for December 25, more than a month earlier than the previously set date of January 31.
The rescheduling could indicate that the Libyan side has found a face-saving way out of the high-profile case. The medics' convictions have sparked international criticism and have become an obstacle to Libyan leader Mu'ammar Gadhafi's goal of improved relations with Europe and the United States.
Bulgarian president Georgi Parvanov told Darik radio on Saturday that "in the past few weeks there have been quite mild, calm, and even positive statements from...leading representatives of the Libyan state and from leaders of the association of HIV-infected children's parents."
Bulgarian foreign minister Ivailo Kalfin told journalists, "If we can in any way influence what is happening in Libya and the trial [against the Bulgarian medics], that will be with the power of public opinion in both Bulgaria and abroad as well as the power of our diplomatic and political partners in the world."
The six medics face death by firing squad. First arrested in February 1999, they were sentenced last year on charges of intentionally infecting more than 400 children with HIV at al-Fath Children's Hospital in Benghazi as part of an experiment to find a cure for AIDS.
Bulgarian and other European officials have accused Libyan authorities of trying to pin blame on the defendants for poor hygiene practices they say caused the infections. (AP)