The Czech Republic has expressed support for a fresh EU agreement
concerning the Iraq crisis. Late on Thursday, 15 EU leaders agreed on the
need to urgently address the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people,
offered to support the creation of representative government and urged the
U.N. be given a "central role during and after the current
crisis." Czech Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla said the Czech Republic
fully supported the idea of a UN-coordinated reconstruction of post-war
At the same time, Mr Spidla said the Czech Republic would not react to a US call for governments worldwide to close down Iraqi embassies.
The Czech Republic deployed an anti-chemical unit in Kuwait but conditioned their engagement in the war without a UN mandate. Otherwise, the troops will only provide humanitarian aid if Iraq uses weapons of mass destruction.
The security situation in the Czech Republic has remained unchanged since the beginning of the war in Iraq, according to defence minister Jaroslav Tvrdik. He said there was no reason to adopt any other special measures and that crisis committees will meet less often than in the first days of the war. Several hundred soldiers have been assigned to assist the police in protecting strategic buildings and installations across the country as well as foreign embassies in Prague.
The opposition Communist Party has recommended its supporters to vote against the Czech Republic's EU entry in an upcoming referendum. Party leader Miroslav Grebenicek said on Saturday that the Central Committee of the Communist Party are not entirely against EU membership in the long run but are deeply dissatisfied with the accession conditions negotiated by the Czech government. They also believe the Czech Republic is not ready for the step as yet. The Communists enjoy a stable support of around 20 percent of the vote and came as the third strongest party in general elections last year. Czechs will vote on their country's EU accession in a referendum in mid-June. In a recent survey, about 80 percent of those asked were in favour of the Czech EU membership.
Interior Minister Stanislav Gross said on Friday there was no immediate threat of a terrorist attack on the Czech Republic. Speaking after a Central Crisis Committee meeting, attended by the heads of Czech intelligence and police representatives, Mr Gross said security measures around the country have been increased solely as a precaution. Some 620 soldiers are to assist the five thousand police and two thousand fire fighters who are currently guarding areas that are possible terrorist targets.
Prime Minister Spidla clarified the exact mandate of the Czech anti-chemical unit currently stationed alongside U.S. troops in Kuwait. He said the unit would not join an offensive against Iraq and would only provide humanitarian assistance if Iraq used weapons of mass destruction. Mr Spidla said the 350-strong unit - which specialises in detecting nuclear, biological and chemical weapons - would only intervene to save lives in Kuwait or neighbouring countries. The Defence Ministry has said none of the soldiers were injured in Thursday's Iraqi rocket attack on Kuwait.
A widespread security operation is in force in the country following the outbreak of hostilities in the Gulf. Heightened security is in place at airports, nuclear power stations, chemical plants, water treatment facilities as well as embassies and government offices, amid concerns that terrorist groups may launch an attack against the country. The authorities have said there is no concrete threat, but believe the heightened security is justified. On Wednesday the Czech Republic expelled four Iraqi diplomats, a move officials said was designed to prevent possible secret intelligence-gathering.
The government has sought to clarify its position on the war against Iraq, in the light of conflicting statements from senior Czech officials. Following a meeting of the National Security Council on Thursday Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla said the Czech Republic was not a member of the so-called "coalition of the willing", as claimed by the U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell. The prime minister made the statement after a radio interview on Wednesday with the Czech foreign minister, Cyril Svoboda, who said the Czech Republic was "on the side of" the U.S. coalition because it was a coalition of democratic countries.
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