Officials at the Defence Ministry have revealed the ministry is preparing to ask parliament to approve sending a military field hospital to support US-led coalition forces in Iraq. Under the proposal, lawmakers may be asked to give a green light to the Czech Army's 7th field hospital unit -- with 50 doctors and 100 support staff - to go into operation in or around the city of Basra in southern Iraq. Although plans have not yet been finalised, the field hospital could be accompanied by additional soldiers and could be assigned to care for injured civilians, a ministry spokesman told the German news agency DPA on Friday. If confirmed the unit would become the second Czech military contingent operating in the Gulf. Some 385 army specialists with a nuclear, biological and chemical weapons detection unit - working alongside a similar unit of 69 Slovak experts - have already been stationed in Kuwait.
The US has asked the Czech Republic to provide a liason officer to take part in a team that would be responsible for civilian administration in a post-war Iraq. The information was released on Friday with Deputy Foreign Minister Rudolf Jindrak saying Czech officials were currently discussing the US request. However, the specifics for the renewal of Iraq remain unclear at this time: it is not yet certain whether the country would be administered by the UN, the US, or Great Britain after the war. The Czech Republic pledged its support for an EU resolution last week stressing the UN play a key role in the future of a post-war Iraq.
Members of the joint Czech-Slovak anti-chemical unit stationed in Kuwait were called on to investigate a missile attack on Kuwait city on Thursday on suspicion that it may have contained a biological or chemical warhead. A chemical alert was called in the Kuwaiti capital as initial tests did not rule out the possibility of a biological weapons attack. However a detailed analysis of the suspicious substance revealed a harmless type of bacteria which is generally present in water cleaning facilities. The head of the Czech anti-chemical unit Dusan Lupuljev said it had been a tense morning.
A unit of specialised forces have left for Kuwait to protect the joint Czech-Slovak anti-chemical unit if it should be called upon to enter Iraqi territory. The specialised unit includes sixteen soldiers from the Czech Republic's elite forces based in Prostejov, central Moravia. The Czech-Slovak anti-chemical unit would only be allowed to enter Iraq to provide humanitarian aid if chemical or biological weapons were used in the war. Following consultations with US officials the Czech Republic decided to give the anti-chemical unit additional protection in light of an increase in guerrilla war tactics by Iraq against the allied forces.
The Czech Republic will answer Turkey's request for humanitarian aid. An aid package worth an estimated 5 million Czech crowns will be sent by the end of the week. The emergency aid is to help refugees fleeing the war in Iraq. The shipment includes field kitchens, tents, and blankets. According to the CTK press agency the Czech Republic has said it would be willing to accept 500 war refuges at this point in time. In a related development, the Czech Defence Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik said on Thursday that in the event of a humanitarian crisis in Iraq the Czech Republic would not wait for UN approval to dispatch a field hospital to the region. The field hospital should be ready to depart as of April 1st.
The director of the Czech Secret Service, Jiri Ruzek, told the BBC on Wednesday that Iraqi agents plotted an attack on the Prague headquarters of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. The planned strike was intended to stop the US-funded station from broadcasting to Iraq. This marks the first time that that Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty was confirmed as a target for a terrorist attack by a Czech official. Security at the station's headquarters was stepped up after the September 11th terrorist attacks on the US. The station's headquarters are near the top of Wenceslas Square, a highly populated area adjacent to a vital Prague highway.
The Czech Republic will deploy a unit of specialised forces to protect the joint Czech-Slovak anti-chemical unit currently stationed in Kuwait. The unit is expected to include around thirty soldiers from Prostejov, central Moravia. On Tuesday Czech and American officials held talks on whether US soldiers would protect the unit if it entered Iraq. The Czech unit will only be allowed to enter the country if chemical or biological weapons are used. The Czech Republic decided to send its own troops to protect the unit in light of an increase in guerrilla war tactics by Iraq against allied forces. The move comes at the same time that the anti-chemical unit has increased monitoring of chemical and biological agents at the request of the Kuwaiti authorities.
A new poll released Wednesday found overwhelming opposition to any war in Iraq in the Czech Republic, with or without a United Nations mandate. According to the CVVM agency, 72 percent of respondents said they opposed the war with UN backing, and 83 percent were against any war without the support of the UN. The poll found that only 21 percent of Czechs support any sort of war in Iraq. The poll also found that 70 percent of respondents do not think that the war against Iraq will contribute to suppressing global terrorism. Also, 82 percent agree with the notion that the United States prioritises foreign policy according to its own power and economic interests.
After Czech Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik stated that the return of Czech gas masks by Kuwaiti officials was a 'cause for shame', the manufacture of the masks, Gumarny, stated that Kuwaiti officials knew they were receiving older masks instead of the newer CM-6 design. Gurmarny's deputy director Jindrich Vaculin explained that the contract signed with Kuwaiti officials stated the older masks were intended only for an interim period before the newer models arrived. The CM-6 gas masks were to be delivered by the end of March but Kuwaiti officials had pushed for immediate delivery because of the war against Iraq.
The Czech Republic has been included on a list of countries by President George Bush which are to benefit financially for supporting the United States, if the US Congress approves his request for 75 billion dollars in funding for the US-led wait against Iraq. The Czech Republic, along with Poland and Hungary would receive some 15 million dollars to cover expenses, in what Mr Bush has called the fight against terrorism. This despite the fact that Czech officials have expressed opposition to the Czech Republic being included on the list of countries taking part in the coalition against Iraq.
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