The joint Czech and Slovak anti-chemical, biological and nuclear battalion deployed in Kuwait has begun monitoring the chemical and radiation situation in the Kuwaiti capital in preparation for any retaliatory strike in the case of war against Iraq. Over the past two days the troops moved from their base at Camp Doha to strategic objects in the country, such as military bases and vital installations including the Kuwaiti oilfields. The joint battalion of about 400 Czech and 60 Slovak troops has a mandate to respond to attacks in 24 countries, including Israel and Turkey, as part of a task force with US and German troops. The Czech and Slovak parliaments have also given permission for the battalion to operate in Iraq.
After his swearing in Friday Mr Klaus gave a short inauguration speech in which he outlined some principles of his new presidency, saying he would seek to be an active president, laying special emphasis on the presidential role of representing the country abroad, improving relations with the Czech Republic's immediate neighbours, and stressing the importance of the Czech Republic's integration to the European Union. Also mentioned was the importance of renewing and broadening the publics' general trust in party politics at home.
Politicians' reactions to President Klaus' inauguration speech on Friday were largely favourable, with many saying they believed Mr Klaus would hold to presidential promises made in his inauguration speech. Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla reacted positively saying the new president had 'a very clear idea of the demands of his office'. Communist representatives, on the other hand, were more careful in characterising Mr Klaus' words, with Communist representative Jiri Dolejs suggesting it was wiser to 'judge people by their deeds', and that his party would 'wait and see' just how Mr Klaus would acknowledge the Communist Party; his predecessor, Vaclav Havel, refused to engage the communists during thirteen years in office. Finally, Petr Mares of the Freedom Union, a junior partner in the country's ruling coalition, said he felt Mr Klaus should have reflected more on the legacy of his predecessor Vaclav Havel. However, he added that his statement was not intended as criticism.
Former prime minister Vaclav Klaus has been sworn in as the second president in the history of the Czech Republic, and the tenth head of state since 1918 when independent Czechoslovakia was founded. The inauguration ceremony took place at Prague Castle on Friday, with Mr Klaus take the presidential oath shortly after two o'clock local time. In attendance were members of parliament, members of diplomatic circles, foreign guests, as well as former president Vaclav Havel, and the former first lady Dagmar Havlova.
In keeping with a long-held tradition in Bohemia a twenty-one gun salute was fired on Prague's Petrin Hill Friday, crowning the swearing in of the country's new president. Preceding his inauguration Mr Klaus upheld another tradition, laying a wreath at the memorial of the first president of Czechoslovakia, Tomas Garrigue Masaryk. This Friday marks the 153rd anniversary of T.G. Masaryk's birth.
As of Friday, the Czech Republic will have a new president, as Vaclav Klaus, who was elected last Friday by a two-vote majority in parliament, will be inaugurated at Prague Castle. Vaclav Klaus will be the second president in the history of the Czech Republic and the tenth head of state since 1918 when independent Czechoslovakia was founded. Before the ceremony, Vaclav Klaus will lay a wreath at the memorial of the first president of Czechoslovakia, Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, on the 153rd anniversary of President Masaryk's birth.
The second reactor at the nuclear power plant in Temelin was shut down on Wednesday night due to a leakage in the non-nuclear part, a spokesman for the power plant said adding that it will take about a day to repair it. The reactor's output first reached 100 percent of capacity on Monday morning. The power start-up of the second reactor began in June 2002 and should be completed in a month.
Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda left for the United States on Wednesday for a three-day official visit. Mr Svoboda is expected to meet his US counterpart Colin Powell and other senior US politicians. Besides holding talks on bilateral and international relations, Mr Svoboda hopes to visit an ice-hockey game with Czech NHL star Jaromir Jagr and officially open a park with a statue of Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, the first president of Czechoslovakia. Next week, Mr Svoboda is expected to visit Vietnam, the Philippines, and New Zealand.
Social Democrat MPs have been reacting to former Prime Minister Milos Zeman's recent comments in the media that have been highly critical of the current party leadership. Giving interviews from his country cottage, Mr Zeman, who retired from politics last year, has lashed out at Social Democrat leader Vladimir Spidla and Deputy-Chairman Stanislav Gross, blaming them for disunity within the party. This, he says, is why deputies voted tfor he opposition's candidate Vaclav Klaus instead of the ruling coalition's Jan Sokol in Friday's presidential elections. Social Democrat MPs have been calling on Mr Zeman to either share his opinion with the parties involved directly or stay out of party politics.
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