The Czech defence minister, Jaroslav Tvrdik, has expressed his dissatisfaction over the failure of a Czech company to fulfil a contract to supply 15,000 gas masks to Kuwait. The company, Gumarny Zubri, sent a consignment of gas masks different from those they had been contracted to send, and the Kuwaitis subsequently dissolved the deal. Minister Tvrdik said even as the company was signing the contract they knew they would be unable to honour it.
The Czech section of the international service of Czech Radio, Radio Prague, has launched special broadcasts targeted at the Czech anti-chemical troops based in Kuwait. Relatives of the soldiers as well as the Czech public will have a chance to send voice messages to members of the unit. Radio Prague broadcasts in six languages on short wave, via satellite and on the internet throughout the world, and also on medium wave in the Czech Republic.
The joint Czech-Slovak anti-chemical unit based in Kuwait has increased
its monitoring of the situation involving radiation and chemical and
biological weapons in the country, the unit's commander Dusan Lupuljev
said on Tuesday. The monitoring was stepped up at midnight on Monday
following a request from the Kuwaiti authorities. In the light of reports
that Iraq may use such weapons when Baghdad is attacked, Czech and United
States officials have held talks on US soldiers protecting the unit if it
enters Iraq. The Czech parliament has approved its troops taking part in
the US-led war against Saddam Hussein's regime if Iraq uses such weapons,
though they are expected to play a primarily humanitarian role.
Meanwhile the Czech-Slovak anti-chemical unit has again come under repeated rocket fire, but - as with previous attacks - none of the rockets have reached their target and there have been no injuries.
In other war-related news, a total of seven US B 52 bomber planes have flown across the Czech Republic in the last 24 hours. Previously the US had only flown transport planes through Czech air space.
Humanitarian aid amounting to some five million Czech crowns is being sent to Turkey in connection with the war against Iraq. A spokesman for the fire brigade union, which has organised the aid, said equipment to build refugee camps, decontamination materials and devices to detect poisonous chemicals were to be sent to Turkey this Saturday. The spokesman said the possible housing of around 500 Iraqi refugees in the Czech Republic was also being prepared.
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 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.
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 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.
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