The Czech government will hold a special session on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the deployment of a Czech field hospital to Iraq. According to Defence Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik, the hospital is to help facilitate the humanitarian aid programme in southern Iraq, around the town of Basra. It is expected to be ready for deployment on April 5. A six month operation has been estimated to cost the state some 474 million Czech crowns, or a little over 16 million US dollars. A portion of the expenses is to be covered by the United States and Great Britain. However, Interior Minister Stanislav Gross said on Monday that the government needs to solve the problem of taking part in humanitarian operations in Iraq, without being a part of the US and British-led coalition that is currently at war with the middle eastern state.
The Czech government has approved an important European Union treaty defining the conditions for the Czech Republic's accession to the EU, scheduled for May next year. Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla is expected to officially sign the treaty, which sets the same conditions for all the ten candidate countries, at an EU summit in Athens in mid-April.
On Sunday delegates at the Social Democratic Party's convention passed a resolution condemning the current US-led war on Iraq. The passing of the resolution followed heated discussion on the war, as well as an incident when the crowd whistled loudly against one speaker who showed support for the US-led war. The resolution criticised the US actions, saying that the conflict could have been avoided, stressing that without a UN mandate the attack went against international law. Interestingly, the Social Democrat resolution changes nothing on the official government stance, which has shown support for the US by sending the Czechs' elite anti-chemical unit to Kuwait.
The commander of the joint Czech and Slovak anti-chemical unit base in Kuwait, Dusan Lupuljev, has described the situation there as calm, due to the temporary halt of US-led ground troops moving further into Iraq. The commander made the statement in a telephone interview with journalists on Sunday. Meanwhile, the Czech Army is currently waiting for approval by parliament this week to send a field hospital to the region. Last week sixteen elite Czech special forces soldiers were dispatched to Kuwait to increase security over increased fears over possible terrorist attacks against individual units. The Czech and Slovak anti-chemical units count 385 and 69 soldiers, respectively,
The commissioner for EU expansion Gunter Verheugen has called the referendum on EU accession the 'decision of the century' for Czechs. Mr Verheugen, who is currently in Prague, spoke to delegates at the Social Democratic Party's national convention, praising Prime Minister Spidla's efforts towards accession. In discussion with Social Democrat delegates the commissioner outlined what he saw as the only two possibilities: to either join the EU outright, or at least become part of the European economic zone.
Cyril Svoboda and Petr Mares, the leaders of the two junior government parties, the Christian Democrats and the Freedom Union, have welcomed Vladimir Spidla's re-election as chairman of the Social Democratic Party, with Mr Mares saying 'it was an opportunity for the government to begin working together more effectively'. Earlier on Saturday both men addressed the Social Democrats' party convention, saying they were in favour of upholding the current governing coalition, and stressing that key tasks lay ahead that were 'more important' than any problems with coalition rule. Questions currently facing the government include: long awaited fiscal and pension reforms, as well as the upcoming referendum on EU accession.
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 have already been stationed in Kuwait.
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.
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.
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