Czech President Vaclav Havel and the Czech government have unanimously supported the decision by NATO's security council to invoke the Alliance's collective defence clause following the devastating terrorist attacks on the USA on Tuesday. This is the first time in NATO's history that its member states have invoked article five of the Alliance's founding charter, that says that an attack on one state is an attack on all. If it is confirmed that those responsible for the horrendous attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Tuesday are from outside the USA, then all member states have undertaken to help the United States government to take measures against them. According to a presidential spokesman, President Havel believes that this is a symbolic act and an expression of solidarity for one of Alliance's members. It is also, the president feels, proof that NATO is able to keep to its obligations and support any member state in an emergency. The Czech government announced on Thursday that it is willing to provide any military assistance necessary to the United States.
All of the opposition parties in Parliament have also backed NATO's stance, with the exception of the Communist Party, which says that any measures should be taken by the United Nations, and not NATO.
Czech Defence Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik stated on Thursday that the Czech Republic's rapid reaction force remains on alert level Alpha, having been taken off full alert on Wednesday. Mr Tvrdik told journalists, the force could respond within hours if NATO requires Czech assistance in any military operation.
The Czech Foreign Ministry has declared that on Friday the Czech Republic will join the member states of the EU in a day of mourning for victims of the attacks. On Wednesday, the fifteen member states of the European Union called on all Europeans to observe three minutes' silence to commemorate the victims of Tuesday's attacks. All flags in the Czech Republic will be kept at half-mast throughout the day on Friday. The government has asked companies and the Czech people not to hold any public events on Friday, in order not to disrupt the day of mourning. President Vaclav Havel has cancelled a planned one-day state visit to Bulgaria on Friday and will remain in the Czech Republic to commemorate the victims of the attacks.
In a fresh opinion poll, the vast majority of Czechs say that the Czech Republic should join in an international battle against terrorism. The poll, carried out by Sofres-Factum, shows that eighty-one percent of respondents are in favour of using the Czech armed forces to aid the United States in any attacks on those deemed responsible for the attacks, with only twelve percent against. More than half of those asked said they fear terrorist attacks on the Czech Republic.
In light of Tuesday's attacks, Czech Telecom has declared that all calls to the USA on Thursday night and Friday night until midnight will be free, through Telecom's XCall internet calling service. So far, 61 Czech nationals have been recorded missing by the Foreign Ministry, but is not known how many of them were in New York or Washington at the time of the attacks. A fifty percent discount will be offered on calls to the USA until September 23rd. The code for the XCall service is 052, followed by 1 for the United States.
With positive economic growth recorded in the second quarter, the Czech Statistical Office says it is still too early to speculate on the effects of the attacks on the Czech economy. The Czech Statistical Office released figures on Thursday that showed a growth in GDP of 3.9 percent for the second quarter, more than two percent higher than the figure shown for the 15 member states of the European Union. The chairwoman of the Czech Statistical Office, Marie Bohata, told journalists on Thursday that the greatest risk following the attacks was posed by fuel prices and the strength of the US dollar. Mrs Bohata said that speculation that the attacks will result in a world-wide recession is premature and that the opposite is also possible. The Czech Statistical Office intends to wait for August's figures to evaluate further economic growth.
And finally, a quick look at the weather forecast. Friday in the Czech Republic should see cloudy to overcast skies, with rain showers in places. Daytime highs could reach 16 degrees Celsius. The weather over the weekend is set to continue cool and wet, with daytime highs dropping to 14 degrees Celsius by Sunday. Night-time lows on Friday could drop to 8 degrees Celsius.
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