The Czech Republic will deploy a unit of specialised forces to protect the joint Czech-Slovak anti-chemical unit currently stationed in Kuwait. The unit is expected to include around thirty soldiers from Prostejov, central Moravia. On Tuesday Czech and American officials held talks on whether US soldiers would protect the unit if it entered Iraq. The Czech unit will only be allowed to enter the country if chemical or biological weapons are used. The Czech Republic decided to send its own troops to protect the unit in light of an increase in guerrilla war tactics by Iraq against allied forces. The move comes at the same time that the anti-chemical unit has increased monitoring of chemical and biological agents at the request of the Kuwaiti authorities.
A new poll released Wednesday found overwhelming opposition to any war in Iraq in the Czech Republic, with or without a United Nations mandate. According to the CVVM agency, 72 percent of respondents said they opposed the war with UN backing, and 83 percent were against any war without the support of the UN. The poll found that only 21 percent of Czechs support any sort of war in Iraq. The poll also found that 70 percent of respondents do not think that the war against Iraq will contribute to suppressing global terrorism. Also, 82 percent agree with the notion that the United States prioritises foreign policy according to its own power and economic interests.
After Czech Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik stated that the return of Czech gas masks by Kuwaiti officials was a 'cause for shame', the manufacture of the masks, Gumarny, stated that Kuwaiti officials knew they were receiving older masks instead of the newer CM-6 design. Gurmarny's deputy director Jindrich Vaculin explained that the contract signed with Kuwaiti officials stated the older masks were intended only for an interim period before the newer models arrived. The CM-6 gas masks were to be delivered by the end of March but Kuwaiti officials had pushed for immediate delivery because of the war against Iraq.
The Czech Republic has been included on a list of countries by President George Bush which are to benefit financially for supporting the United States, if the US Congress approves his request for 75 billion dollars in funding for the US-led wait against Iraq. The Czech Republic, along with Poland and Hungary would receive some 15 million dollars to cover expenses, in what Mr Bush has called the fight against terrorism. This despite the fact that Czech officials have expressed opposition to the Czech Republic being included on the list of countries taking part in the coalition against Iraq.
The Czech defence minister, Jaroslav Tvrdik, has expressed his dissatisfaction over the failure of a Czech company to fulfil a contract to supply 15,000 gas masks to Kuwait. The company, Gumarny Zubri, sent a consignment of gas masks different from those they had been contracted to send, and the Kuwaitis subsequently dissolved the deal. Minister Tvrdik said even as the company was signing the contract they knew they would be unable to honour it.
The Czech section of the international service of Czech Radio, Radio Prague, has launched special broadcasts targeted at the Czech anti-chemical troops based in Kuwait. Relatives of the soldiers as well as the Czech public will have a chance to send voice messages to members of the unit. Radio Prague broadcasts in six languages on short wave, via satellite and on the internet throughout the world, and also on medium wave in the Czech Republic.
The joint Czech-Slovak anti-chemical unit based in Kuwait has increased
its monitoring of the situation involving radiation and chemical and
biological weapons in the country, the unit's commander Dusan Lupuljev
said on Tuesday. The monitoring was stepped up at midnight on Monday
following a request from the Kuwaiti authorities. In the light of reports
that Iraq may use such weapons when Baghdad is attacked, Czech and United
States officials have held talks on US soldiers protecting the unit if it
enters Iraq. The Czech parliament has approved its troops taking part in
the US-led war against Saddam Hussein's regime if Iraq uses such weapons,
though they are expected to play a primarily humanitarian role.
Meanwhile the Czech-Slovak anti-chemical unit has again come under repeated rocket fire, but - as with previous attacks - none of the rockets have reached their target and there have been no injuries.
In other war-related news, a total of seven US B 52 bomber planes have flown across the Czech Republic in the last 24 hours. Previously the US had only flown transport planes through Czech air space.
Humanitarian aid amounting to some five million Czech crowns is being sent to Turkey in connection with the war against Iraq. A spokesman for the fire brigade union, which has organised the aid, said equipment to build refugee camps, decontamination materials and devices to detect poisonous chemicals were to be sent to Turkey this Saturday. The spokesman said the possible housing of around 500 Iraqi refugees in the Czech Republic was also being prepared.
The attitude of the Czech Republic on the Iraq war will not affect relations with France and the EU, the Czech representative at the EU Convention, Josef Zieleniec, told journalists after a meeting with French European Affairs Minister Noelle Lenoir. Ms Lenoir held talks with Mr Zieleniec and Czech senate chairman Petr Pithart on Monday. They agreed that the disunity of views inside the EU on the solution to the Iraqi crisis posed no problem to European integration. French President Jacques Chirac recently sharply criticised EU candidates for their siding with the US over the Iraqi crisis. Ms Lenoir explained that Mr Chirac had been speaking very rigidly on behalf of EU enlargement lately because of public opinion in his country which does not wish any serious discrepancies in the widened family of nations.
All four Iraqi diplomats that were officially expelled from the Czech Republic last week left the country on Friday, a Foreign Ministry spokesman has said. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs decided to expel the four diplomats last Wednesday after assessing intelligence reports. However, the ministry has not yet decided whether to close down the Iraqi embassy, a move requested from the international community by the United States. Among the countries which have expelled Iraqi diplomats suspected of espionage are Sweden, Finland, Hungary, Germany and Australia.
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