Italy to lead NATO combat unit in Bulgaria, to send up to 800 troops

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Admiral Rob Bauer, chair of the NATO Military Committee, attends a drill of Bulgaria's Armed Forces and U.S. Army Stryker company in Novo Selo grounds, Bulgaria, April 21, 2022. REUTERS/Spasiyana Sergieva

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SOFIA, May 18 (Reuters) - Italy will take over the leadership of a new NATO combat unit that is being set up in Bulgaria to bolster the alliance's defences on its eastern flank amid the war in Ukraine, the Bulgarian government said on Wednesday.

Italy could deploy up to 800 troops and military equipment in the Black Sea country, while Sofia, which initially panned to lead the unit, will limit the number of Bulgarian troops to 140.

The government also allowed the participation of 40 troops from Albania. The United States and Britain have already agreed to provide one company each to the Bulgarian battle group. A company typically numbers between 150 and 200 soldiers.

NATO, which has already beefed up its eastern flank to 40,000 troops spread from the Baltic to the Black Sea, agreed in March to set up new combat units in Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia. read more

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Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; editing by Jonathan Oatis

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