The attitude of the Czech Republic on the Iraq war will not affect relations with France and the EU, the Czech representative at the EU Convention, Josef Zieleniec, told journalists after a meeting with French European Affairs Minister Noelle Lenoir. Ms Lenoir held talks with Mr Zieleniec and Czech senate chairman Petr Pithart on Monday. They agreed that the disunity of views inside the EU on the solution to the Iraqi crisis posed no problem to European integration. French President Jacques Chirac recently sharply criticised EU candidates for their siding with the US over the Iraqi crisis. Ms Lenoir explained that Mr Chirac had been speaking very rigidly on behalf of EU enlargement lately because of public opinion in his country which does not wish any serious discrepancies in the widened family of nations.
All four Iraqi diplomats that were officially expelled from the Czech Republic last week left the country on Friday, a Foreign Ministry spokesman has said. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs decided to expel the four diplomats last Wednesday after assessing intelligence reports. However, the ministry has not yet decided whether to close down the Iraqi embassy, a move requested from the international community by the United States. Among the countries which have expelled Iraqi diplomats suspected of espionage are Sweden, Finland, Hungary, Germany and Australia.
The governor of the Moravian region of Olomouc, Jan Brezina, has warned local people against a serious threat of terrorist attacks that could take place on Monday morning. He said the threat came from an anonymous blackmailer who recently planted a bomb under a railway bridge in Olomouc and demanded 10 million Czech crowns from the government, otherwise, he threatened to plant explosive devices in different places across the region to go off on Monday, March 24th. Although the police left the money in several places indicated by the blackmailer on Thursday, he failed to collect it. Mr. Brezina said the danger was serious and urged local people to avoid busy public places, such as railway stations and supermarkets.
All 458 troops in a joint Czech and Slovak anti-chemical unit stationed in Kuwait are all right, their commander Dusan Lupuljev told Czech press on Sunday. The unit came under Iraqi fire in the past days, with several rocket attacks on their military base neutralised by the Patriot anti-missile system. The Czech-Slovak unit has a mandate to provide humanitarian aid in Kuwait and neighbouring countries if Iraq uses weapons of mass destruction. However, it will not be engaged in the invasion of Iraq.
European commissioner for enlargement, Guenter Verheugen, has expressed satisfaction with the position of the new Czech president Vaclav Klaus on the Sudeten German issue. He said Klaus's recent short statement was enough to bring to an end a lengthy dispute over the post-war expulsion of ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakia under the so-called Benes decrees. On Friday, the 64th anniversary of nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia, Mr. Klaus called for reconciliation and said both nazi terror and post-war expulsion of Sudeten Germans were unacceptable from today's point of view. Mr. Verheugen said without president Klaus's symbolic gesture to condemn the expulsions, there had been a danger that the European Parliament would adopt a partly negative resolution concerning the Czech Republic's EU accession.
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.
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