Czech defence minister provides backing vocals on CD supporting US radar base

George Bush has been all over the media in the Czech Republic since he arrived on Monday evening. However, many ordinary Czechs are perhaps talking less about his visit and more about a bizarre gift Czech Defence Minister Vlasta Parkanova was planning to give the US president - a CD supporting a planned US radar base on which the minister herself sings backing vocals.

Defence Minister Vlasta Parkanova and Jan Vycital, photo: CTKDefence Minister Vlasta Parkanova and Jan Vycital, photo: CTK Ms Parkanova told reporters she was planning to give a CD of the song Dobry den, prapore hvezd a pruhu (Hello, Stars and Stripes) to the world's most powerful man. It is based on a tune from 1961 called Hello Major Gagarin, celebrating the Soviet hero becoming the first man in space. This song, though, is pro-American, and says 'Hello Radar, welcome'.

It's written and performed by a singer called Jan Vycital, but he's helped by a rather unusual backing vocalist: Defence Minister Parkanova herself.

Ms Parkanova is one of the Czech Republic's most popular politicians, but it's hard to know if this stunt will add to or take away from her approval ratings. The defence minister herself says she knows she's setting herself up to be satirised.

However, she justifies recording the song by saying she and its writer wanted to lighten the "tense and negative atmosphere" surrounding US plans to build a radar base in central Bohemia.

Apparently the minister and the singer have known one another since the days when Vlasta Parkanova used to appear with a jazz orchestra. She has reportedly even released a solo album, entitled Rikej mi to potichoucku (Tell me Very Quietly).