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.
The Czech government has approved an important European Union treaty defining the conditions for the Czech Republic's accession to the EU, scheduled for May next year. Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla is expected to officially sign the treaty, which sets the same conditions for all the ten candidate countries, at an EU summit in Athens in mid-April.
On Sunday delegates at the Social Democratic Party's convention passed a resolution condemning the current US-led war on Iraq. The passing of the resolution followed heated discussion on the war, as well as an incident when the crowd whistled loudly against one speaker who showed support for the US-led war. The resolution criticised the US actions, saying that the conflict could have been avoided, stressing that without a UN mandate the attack went against international law. Interestingly, the Social Democrat resolution changes nothing on the official government stance, which has shown support for the US by sending the Czechs' elite anti-chemical unit to Kuwait.
The commander of the joint Czech and Slovak anti-chemical unit base in Kuwait, Dusan Lupuljev, has described the situation there as calm, due to the temporary halt of US-led ground troops moving further into Iraq. The commander made the statement in a telephone interview with journalists on Sunday. Meanwhile, the Czech Army is currently waiting for approval by parliament this week to send a field hospital to the region. Last week sixteen elite Czech special forces soldiers were dispatched to Kuwait to increase security over increased fears over possible terrorist attacks against individual units. The Czech and Slovak anti-chemical units count 385 and 69 soldiers, respectively,
Officials at the Defence Ministry have revealed the ministry is preparing to ask parliament to approve sending a military field hospital to support US-led coalition forces in Iraq. Under the proposal, lawmakers may be asked to give a green light to the Czech Army's 7th field hospital unit -- with 50 doctors and 100 support staff - to go into operation in or around the city of Basra in southern Iraq. Although plans have not yet been finalised, the field hospital could be accompanied by additional soldiers and could be assigned to care for injured civilians, a ministry spokesman told the German news agency DPA on Friday. If confirmed the unit would become the second Czech military contingent operating in the Gulf. Some 385 army specialists with a nuclear, biological and chemical weapons detection unit have already been stationed in Kuwait.
The commissioner for EU expansion Gunter Verheugen has called the referendum on EU accession the 'decision of the century' for Czechs. Mr Verheugen, who is currently in Prague, spoke to delegates at the Social Democratic Party's national convention, praising Prime Minister Spidla's efforts towards accession. In discussion with Social Democrat delegates the commissioner outlined what he saw as the only two possibilities: to either join the EU outright, or at least become part of the European economic zone.
Cyril Svoboda and Petr Mares, the leaders of the two junior government parties, the Christian Democrats and the Freedom Union, have welcomed Vladimir Spidla's re-election as chairman of the Social Democratic Party, with Mr Mares saying 'it was an opportunity for the government to begin working together more effectively'. Earlier on Saturday both men addressed the Social Democrats' party convention, saying they were in favour of upholding the current governing coalition, and stressing that key tasks lay ahead that were 'more important' than any problems with coalition rule. Questions currently facing the government include: long awaited fiscal and pension reforms, as well as the upcoming referendum on EU accession.
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