During a meeting on Monday evening, the Czech Prime Minister, Milos Zeman and the Speaker of the Lower House, Vaclav Klaus, decided to intensify co-operation between the government and parliament. Mr Zeman told journalists after the meeting that both institutions would concentrate on the adoption of a new law assuring airlines of state financial backing in times of crisis - Czech airlines (CSA) has suffered tremendous losses due to low ticket sales since the terrorist attacks on September 11th. Mr Klaus added that part of the discussion also focused on reforming the armed forces, civic defence and the intelligence services.
As the United States launches retaliatory military action against Afghanistan, the Czech Republic has tightened security around the US embassy in Prague, the Radio Free Europe building and other potential terrorist targets. On Monday, Czech President Vaclav Havel visited reporters in the heavily guarded American-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty building. He stressed the importance of their broadcasts to the former Soviet Bloc, especially to the Central Asian republics, and added that it was imperative for these countries to express their solidarity and take part in the international campaign against terrorism. As a dissident during the Communist regime, Mr Havel contributed to Radio Free Europe broadcasts several times. He thanked the station for remembering while he was in prison and said that without its broadcasts, he would have been in jail for much longer.
Preparations for a potential chemical and biological attack are also underway. Czech doctors and nurses are to be instructed on how to treat victims of chemical and biological warfare at special courses and from expert literature that are to be distributed by the Health Ministry shortly. According to ministry spokesman, Otakar Cerny, there is a wide range of illnesses that can break out after a chemical attack and both the health and interior ministries are currently going through the list to see which ones doctors and nurses should prepare for.
Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman told journalists on Monday that the Czech Republic would most probably be lending a TU-154 plane and crew to the United States to be used in its campaign against terrorism. Mr Zeman said that the United States had recently expressed interest in the plane, which could be used to transport passengers and goods between the USA and Europe as early as this week. The plane would be sent along with a crew of 16 to 20 people, consisting of a pilot and several technicians.
The Czech Foreign Ministry has said that it has 5 million Czech crowns, a little over 135 000 USD, available for humanitarian aid to be given to Afghan refugees. According to the ministry's spokesman, Ales Pospisil, the sum will be allocated to refugees through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the UNHCR. Mr Pospisil also said that direct aid from the Czech Republic would concentrate mainly on medical supplies and would be sent to the affected areas via the Czech representative office in Uzbekistan.
On a related note, the Czech branch of the humanitarian organisation, Adra, has opened up an account into which Czech citizens can send monetary donations collected for aiding refugees fleeing from Afghanistan following the attacks. According to Viteslav Vurst of Adra, there are currently some 1.5 million Afghan refugees in Iran and Pakistan - a million had fled during the war with Russia and the other half a million because of the threat of military action by the United States. In co-operation with the UNHCR, Adra has provided refugees with food and has helped to establish much needed refugee camps in Afghanistan's neighbouring states.
Security around Afghanistan's embassy in Prague has also been tightened, with two armed policemen patrolling the vicinity. According to the Czech News Agency, however, it is questionable whether Afghan representatives are still in Prague, as there has been no sign of the Afghan diplomats. As far as security measures in Pakistan are concerned, Foreign Ministry spokesman Ales Pospisil said on Monday that staff at both the Czech embassy in Islamabad and the General Consulate in Karachi have reduced as much as possible. A rapid evacuation plan has also been drawn up, should the situation worsen. The Foreign Ministry has no records of Czech tourists on Pakistani territory.
Whilst opposition to the Anglo-American strikes on Afghanistan from the Muslim community in Pakistan has been strong, the Czech Muslim community has not voiced any direct opposition. The Chairman of the Islamic Foundation in the Moravian town of Brno, Munib Hasan has, however, described military action as unnecessary. Mr Hasan said that if the United States had instead given Afghanistan's ruling Taliban the evidence linking Osama bin Laden to the September 11th attacks, it would have been able to put bin Laden on trial according to Islamic law, which could have resulted in the death penalty.
Meanwhile, representatives of the Czech-Jewish Community expect the military strikes on Afghanistan to result in growing anti-Semitism around the world. After the leader of the Al Qaeda group, Osama bin Laden, openly declared the terrorist attacks on the United States to be in reaction to US support of Israel against the Palestinians, Czech Jews fear that those opposing the military strikes may blame the Jewish Community.
And finally a quick look at the weather forecast. Tuesday shall have partially clear skies with scattered, light showers and day-time temperatures between 18 and 22 degrees Celsius. Tuesday night is expected to have cloudy skies with occasional showers. Night-time temperatures will range from 8 to 12 degrees Celsius. Wednesday should see overcast skies in the morning, turning to partially clear skies by the afternoon. Day-time temperature are expected to hover between 15 and 20 degrees Celsius.
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