Prague is gradually returning to normal after the two day NATO summit
on Thursday and Friday. Traffic is again flowing normally through the
city, where many streets were cordoned off, and shops, which were
boarded up in anticipation of violent anti-NATO demonstrations are
gradually reopening. In the end the summit passed without serious
incident, and police officers, brought in from around the country are
now returning home.
The NATO summit witnessed the historic decision to invite a further seven countries to join the alliance, and for the first time the expansion is to include countries which were once part of the Soviet Union. NATO leaders also decided to create a rapid response force to be used in global anti-terrorist missions, and issued a statement backing UN efforts to disarm Iraq. The statement was cautiously worded and fell short of overtly endorsing military intervention. At talks on Friday NATO and Russia said they would continue in the path of cooperation set up in Rome six months ago.
The Czech Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla will be in Brussels on Monday to lobby for Czech interests, just as the European Union begins debating the precise financial conditions that will apply after the next wave of applicants is admitted. At a series of meetings with EU and Belgian officials, including EU Commission President, Romano Prodi, Mr Spidla will be putting forward such Czech concerns as subsidies for the country's farmers and quotas for milk and beef exports. The Czech Republic's chief negotiator with the EU, Pavel Telicka, said that the visit was extremely well timed, as it would be the Czech Republic's last top-level opportunity to influence EU decisions on its finances after expansion. The country is widely expected to join the union in 2004.
Two men who disrupted a news conference concluding the NATO summit on Friday have been charged with breaching the peace. During NATO Secretary General George Robertson's closing speech, the men attempted to throw a tomato at Mr Robertson and shouted anti-alliance slogans in Russian. The two protestors were attending the summit as journalists. Both were released from police custody on Friday evening. Czech President Vaclav Havel apologised to Lord Robertson after the incident.
Two men who disrupted a news conference concluding the NATO summit on Friday have been charged with breaching the peace. During NATO Secretary General George Robertson's closing speech, the men attempted to throw a tomato at Mr Robertson and shouted anti-alliance slogans in Russian. After security officials hauled the protesters out of the room, one of them said he was a Russian National Bolshevik Party activist. The two protesters were accredited as journalists. Both were released from police custody on Friday evening. Lord Robertson took the incident with humour, saying that the tomato had now become historic as it was thrown during a historic NATO summit. Czech President Vaclav Havel apologised to Lord Robertson after the incident.
The NATO summit came to an end in Prague on Friday after two days of talks on the enlargement, transformation and modernisation of the alliance. Leaders of the 53-year-old defence organisation made the historic decision to invite a further seven former Eastern Bloc nations to join, and for the first time the expansion is to include countries which were once part of the Soviet Union. NATO leaders also decided to create a rapid Response Force to be used in global anti-terrorist missions, and issued a statement backing UN efforts to disarm Iraq. However the statement did not go so far as to endorse military intervention overtly. On Friday, representatives of the 19 NATO member states met their counterparts from 27 East European and Central Asian nations that have partnership accords with the alliance.
Meanwhile, with the NATO summit being over, Prague is gradually getting back to normal. Those who left the city or stayed home for fear of getting caught in demonstrations are returning to their normal lives. Despite further protest demonstrations scheduled to be held in several parts of the city, Prague streets remained quiet on Saturday. Police who were called in during the summit from the rest of the country are being sent back home.
Two Anti-NATO demonstrations took place on Friday afternoon. A crowd of
anarchists marched from Namesti Miru Square towards the Congress Centre
- the main venue of the summit - and back, and a meeting of right-wing
nationalists ended at around 4 pm on Old Town Square in the historic
centre of Prague. No violence was reported from the demonstrations or
those that took place on the previous days.
The NATO summit took place amid tight security measures. Around 12,000 policemen were stationed in the streets of Prague, equipped with water cannons and riot gear, and police helicopters were patrolling over the city. Also border police turned away more than 300 would-be protesters at the Czech border.
The German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder used the summit to end a diplomatic row with the United States over Iraq. President Bush had been deeply angered during Germany's election campaign over Mr Schroeder's outspoken opposition to US threats of military force against Iraq. After months of refusing to say if the US would be allowed to use its military bases in Germany and overfly rights in the event of an Iraq war, Schroeder told reporters: "We don't have any plans to put limits on the movements of our friends." But the German leader repeated his pledge not to send troops to participate in military strikes against Baghdad. "Military means must be used only as a last resort for fighting international terrorism," he said, adding: "There will not be any German military participation."
The Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov welcomed NATO's planned strategic anti-terror reorientation, saying this made the Alliance's eastward expansion compatible with Moscow's security interests. "We consider that this transformation of NATO should be welcomed," Mr Ivanov said following a meeting with the 19 alliance foreign ministers. Mr Ivanov was reacting to NATO's historic decision on Thursday to invite seven former communist states to join the organisation and to set up a 20,000 member anti-terror rapid Response Force for worldwide operations. Three of the states joining NATO - Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania - were part of the former Soviet Union. The other four future members are Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.
After meeting Czech veterans from the Gulf War and former members of the Czech military unit stationed in Kuwait, the US President George W. Bush left for Russia where he met the Russian President Vladimir Putin. US officials said Mr Bush would pledge to respect Russia's economic interests in any military action to disarm Iraq, and try to soften the blow of NATO's expansion. A senior US official said Mr Bush had chosen to visit Mr Putin right after the summit "to demonstrate that what happened today is a new chapter, and it is a new chapter that is favourable for Russia and favourable for its people".
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