At the beginning of the week, British Prime Minister Tony Blair unveiled a dossier on Iraq containing photographs of L-29 Dolphin military fighter planes, which Saddam Hussein is allegedly trying to transform into carriers for chemical and biological weapons. The planes were made in the former Communist Czechoslovakia. Earlier this month, the Czech daily Mlada Fronta Dnes reported that a newly revealed document proved that Communist Czechoslovakia had links to the Palestinian terrorist who masterminded the 1972 Olympics massacre in Munich, Germany. It is also no secret that Muhammad Atta, the man believed to have piloted one of the hijacked planes that crashed into the World Trade Centre in New York on September 11th last year, visited the Czech Republic twice, and to make matters worse, is believed to have contacted an Iraqi intelligence official to discuss plans to blow up the American-funded Radio Free Europe headquarters in Prague. A former UN chief weapons inspector then disclosed that he suspected the Iraqi agent to have handed Atta anthrax spores when they met in the Czech capital...
Before his departure Mr Havel said he would be pushing for NATO to take in seven post-Communist states in meetings with senior U.S. officials. The Czech President said he wanted NATO to accept Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and the three Baltic states at its forthcoming summit in Prague. The Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland became the first post-Communist countries to join the alliance in 1999.
Is the Czech government divided over Iraq? The Defence Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik said recently he was more slightly more hawkish on military action against Saddam Hussein than his colleagues, suggesting that there are divisions within the cabinet. But how deep are these divisions, and could they cause problems if the Czechs are asked to assist in a U.S. military campaign? Jiri Pehe is a leading analyst and external advisor to President Vaclav Havel.
Czech Army chief of staff Jiri Sedivy is attending a meeting of the Military Committee of NATO in Berlin on Monday and Tuesday, to discuss preparations for the Alliance's summit in Prague in November. The Military Committee session continues in Prague on Wednesday and Thursday. The Prague summit is the first NATO summit to be held behind the Iron Curtain. It is to be attended by representatives of 19 member states and 27 countries participating in the Partnership for Peace programme. Issues the summit is expected to deal with include relationships with Russia and further expansion eastward.
The Czech Defence Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik has said the Czech Republic is discussing the securing of its aerospace with other NATO members. Owing to the recent floods, the government had to abandon plans to buy two dozen supersonic jet fighters for the Czech air force. Speaking at an air show in the city of Hradec Kralove on Saturday, Mr Tvrdik said that by mid-September he would put forward alternatives to the original plan to buy 24 Gripen fighters from the British-Swedish consortium BAE Systems/Saab. Mr Tvrdik said the options were to buy fewer aircraft, lease them or work in cooperation with other NATO member-countries.
On Tuesday May 28th, the eyes of the world were on the Practica di Mare military airbase in Italy where NATO and Russia signed an agreement symbolizing the end of the Cold War. But, beneath the back-patting and the high powered speeches about "the former foes and superpowers overcoming 50 years of division and uncertainty" there was in fact a great deal of uncertainty regarding the future of the newly set up NATO-Russia Council and, indeed, the future role of NATO itself in a fast changing world. Daniela Lazarova has the story.