Tens of anarchists and numerous young citizens of Caslav gathered at one of the Bohemian town's squares on Saturday to protest against the war in Iraq. Carrying banners with slogans such as "No War for Oil" and "No to War for Profit", the protesters marched to the town hall where they gave a brief speech that criticised the United States and its military action. The demonstration was monitored by the police. Before it began, the peace protesters clashed with a group of skinheads but no incident was reported.
Police say they have arrested a Slovak national on Saturday morning who is believed to be a powerful boss of the Slovak underworld. After having served part of an eight and a half year prison sentence in Slovakia, Mikulas Cernak was released on probation in November. The 36-year old former owner of a private security agency was found guilty of having blackmailed and demanded "protection fees" from entrepreneurs in central Slovakia. Czech police say they have arrested Mr Cernak after finding evidence linking him to Russian-speaking organised crime groups in the Czech Republic. The arrest was confirmed by Slovak Interior Minister Vladimir Palko, who hopes to have Mr Cernak extradited back to Slovakia soon, to face legal proceedings.
The Czech Defence Ministry is to forward a proposal to the government on Monday, to offer Turkey protective gear and devices worth three million Czech crowns. With the US and British led war on Iraq, Turkey's security has been under threat as the NATO partner shares its borders with the middle eastern state. According to Andrej Cirtka from the Czech defence ministry's press department, the protective material, including numerous smaller anti-chemical packages and protective coats, is to help the citizens of Turkey defend themselves, should Saddam Hussein's regime decide to use weapons of mass destruction. The Czech gesture is to be part of current NATO security measures.
Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla said on Saturday that he hoped to meet with Interior Minister Stanislav Gross and the head of the state prosecution service Marie Benesova within the next two weeks to discuss the re-organisation of part of the police force. Speaking on a Czech TV programme, Mr Spidla reacted to Mrs Benesova's recent criticism in the media of the current state of the Czech police. In mid-March, a new corruption and financial crime unit was created through the merging of two elite police units. However, the new office, which is to deal with serious cases of economic crime, corruption, money laundering and military offences, has suffered much criticism since its creation. According to Mrs Benesova, disorganisation and confusion has resulted in a significant number of experienced investigators leaving the Czech police.
The Czech anti-chemical unit based in Kuwait as part of operation 'Enduring Freedom' will see a rotation of military personnel at the end of June at the latest, an army representative told journalists on Friday. The current contingent, which is 400 members strong, has a number of members who have been stationed in Kuwait since last September, some of whom had already been expected to return home. Deputy Defence Minister Jan Vana revealed on Friday that the manner of rotating personnel, however, would not be up to Czech officials alone, but also up to the US, aware the Czech contingent has a mandate to serve in the Gulf until the end of 2003. Besides being able to provide decontamination expertise, the Czech Republic has also indicated it could provide additional experts to help locate possible weapons of mass destruction.
Czech president Vaclav Klaus met with former president and 'Solidarity' leader Lech Walesa in Gdansk, Poland, on Friday, with Mr Walesa greeting Mr Klaus as one of the last "warriors" of post-Communist central Europe, Mr Klaus told journalists afterwards. The Czech president, is completing a two-day visit to Poland; on Thursday he met with current President Aleksander Kwasniewski and parliament leaders in Warsaw, discussing the current war on Iraq and upcoming referendums on membership to the European Union.
Four of the 400 members of the Czech chemical weapons battalion currently stationed in Kuwait were agents of the communist military counter-intelligence VKR before 1989, Defence Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik told reporters on Thursday. One of the four is the unit's psychologist and spokesman Ludek Lavicka. Members of the battalion met at the Camp Doha base on Thursday afternoon and decided to give their colleagues a vote of confidence. According to Minister Tvrdik, the soldiers in question have met all qualification requirements and are not deployed in posts subject to the screening law or security vetting which is necessary for handling secret data of higher degree.
The Czech President, Vaclav Klaus, who is on a two-day state visit to Poland, his second foreign trip as Czech President, has met his Polish counterpart Aleksander Kwasniewski and parliament leaders in Warsaw. Mr Klaus and Mr Kwasniewski agreed that the war in Iraq should end as soon as possible and with the lowest possible number of casualties. The two presidents also talked about their countries' future membership of the European Union and the forthcoming referendums on joining the EU.
The president of the Czech Tennis Union, Ivo Kaderka, says he is considering not sending a Czech Fed Cup team to face the United States on April 26 and 27 due to fears of a possible terrorist attack. Mr Kaderka has sought a guarantee of the Czech women's team's safety from the Czech Foreign Ministry and the chairman of Parliament's Defence and Security Committee. A decision is to be made in two week's time on whether to allow the Czech team to go.
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.
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