Pits of explosives apparently abandoned by the Iraqi army have been discovered near a Czech army field hospital in the Iraqi city of Basra. According to Czech explosives expert Vladimir Kral dozens of anti-tank shells, grenades and rocket accelerators were found in water-filled pits by playing children. The children reported the ordnance to hospital doctors working nearby. British soldiers in charge of the area have taken control of the site, which also includes a building that locals say was used for torturing prisoners during Saddam Hussein's rule. The explosives were lying only 200 metres from the field hospital's surgical centre, which has been treating civilians and soldiers for about a week. Among the patients are children injured by explosives left over from the latest war.
Defence Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik is travelling to Kuwait on Monday to visit the Czech-Slovak NBC unit stationed at Camp Doha. On Tuesday Minister Tvrdik is to travel to the Iraqi city of Basra where a Czech military field hospital is being built. On Wednesday Mr Tvrdik will meet Kuwaiti officials. Czech anti-chemical experts have been deployed in the region as part of the US-led Enduring Freedom operation. The Czech military field hospital was expected to begin full service on Tuesday but construction has been delayed due to various complications.
Both units of the Temelin nuclear power station have started operating at 100 percent of capacity for the first time, supplying around 2,000 MWH of electricity to the grid. The plant has thus reached its maximum output - seventeen years after its construction started. Both units could produce about 48,000 MWH of electricity per day. The decision on the construction of the nuclear power station was made in 1980 and works began in February 1987. After 1989 the country reconsidered its electricity consumption and in March 1993 the government decided to complete the plant with only two units instead of four. The construction of Temelin was accompanied by many problems, which provoked a wave of protests in neighbouring Austria and Germany.
The Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda has said that American troops could be stationed in the Czech Republic. Mr Svoboda, who is attending an informal meeting of the foreign ministers of the European Union member and candidate countries in Greece, said that history teaches us that security in Europe is not ensured without the United States. Foreign Minister Svoboda was reacting to President Vaclav Klaus's interview published in Saturday's edition of the German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung, in which Mr Klaus said that he was against the stationing of US units in the Czech Republic. President Klaus said that owing to their recent history Czechs were very sensitive to the topic of foreign military units being deployed on Czech territory. Alluding to the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, Mr Klaus said in Sueddeutsche Zeitung that any new stationing of foreign troops would probably not be welcomed. According to some speculations, the United States is contemplating removing its troops from Germany eastwards.
The Czech Air Force could obtain 14 old Tornado F3 fighters from the
British Army, which would replace the MiG-21 fighters whose lifespan
expires soon, either for free or for a symbolic price, the daily Pravo
wrote on Saturday, citing Defence Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik. However,
the Defence Ministry should consider whether the operation of the old
British planes would be profitable.
According to the paper, army experts need to ascertain, for instance, whether general repairs would have to be made on the planes and how much the pilot training would cost. They are also studying whether the adjustment of airport infrastructure to the operation of Tornados would prove worthwhile. On Wednesday, Minister Tvrdik discussed the possibility of obtaining old Tornado fighters with his British counterpart Geoff Hoon.
President Vaclav Klaus has sharply criticised the European integration process. Speaking at a conference on economics in Munich on Friday, Mr Klaus said some European politicians, who he referred to as unionists and federalists, wanted to create a centralised European superstate. The president, who in the past has referred to himself as a Eurorealist, said the integration process should be halted because real democracy cannot exist in a structure which is bigger than a nation state. A referendum is to be held in the middle of next month on whether the Czech Republic should accede to the European Union. If the referendum is passed the country is expected to join the union in May 2004.
The Czech ambassador to Kuwait Jana Hybaskova has indicated there have been minor complications in preparations underway to set up the Czech Republic's 7th field hospital in Basra, southern Iraq. The reason: an overwhelming amount of activity over the transfer of US equipment and personnel in Kuwait, presenting a logistics problem for the Czech hospital team. At the same time the ambassador expressed hope that the target date of May 6th for setting up the hospital would be met. She stressed that Czech medical personnel had began treating patients already. On Tuesday Defence Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik also expressed full confidence the deadline would be kept.
Defence Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik is currently weighing four possible options for securing the defence of Czech airspace, among them the possibility of either buying a series of new fighter jets, relying on NATO as an alliance member, or negotiating temporary use of older British Tornado fighter jets for an interim period, before buying 24 new aircraft. The Czech Republic currently needs to replace its ageing Russian-built MiG-21 fleet. Speaking to journalists on Wednesday Minster Tvrdik said he favoured securing air defence through national means. The minister met with his British counterpart Geoff Hoon, in Prague, to discuss possibilities, with Mr Hoon indicating that Great Britain would react to concrete requests. According to Mr Tvrdik, Czech experts will now put together a concrete proposal. The Defence Minister is expected to visit Great Britain next month.
The Czech government's pro-EU campaign is to be launched on May 1st, some six weeks before Czechs are due to vote on EU membership in a national referendum. The campaign, for which the government earmarked 200 million crowns, includes TV spots, discussion programmes and panel debates, billboards and leaflets. The government is already operating a toll free phone line on EU matters and within the next few weeks every Czech household should get materials outlining the main points of the Czech Republic's association agreement with the EU.
The Czech government has earmarked 40 million Czech crowns out of the state budget to be used for humanitarian aid to Iraq and to cover the expenses of a group of twenty Czech experts who are to assist with the reconstruction of the country. The ministries of foreign affairs, defence and trade have fourteen days to draw up a joint plan on the country's political and economic contribution to Iraq's reconstruction. The government has yet to decide how much money will be allocated to Czech firms directly involved in Iraq's reconstruction. A vote is expected within 14 days.
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