The American ambassador to Prague, Craig Stapleton, asked the Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman on Thursday to provide an anti-chemical unit for the U.S.-led campaign against terrorism. Mr. Zeman agreed to send the Czech unit, which saw action during the Gulf War 11 years ago. The 300-member chemical protection unit based in the North Bohemian town of Liberec will most probably be deployed in Pakistan or Uzbekistan. The Czech Republic has already joined the current anti-terrorist campaign by providing the allies with an TU-154 transport plane. Meanwhile, the speaker of the lower house, Vaclav Klaus, has asked Ambassador Stapleton to help remove obstacles that are preventing the relocation of the U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe from its present headquarters in the centre of Prague. The building is currently guarded by elite troops and four armoured personnel carriers.
Iraq has denied comments by the Czech Interior Minister, Stanislav Gross, who said this week that an Iraqi diplomat and alleged spy had met Muhammad Atta, one of the alleged hijackers involved in the terrorist attacks on the United States, in Prague earlier this year. The Iraqi Foreign Ministry described the information as "not true at all." The ministry has also accused Minister Gross of spreading "false news" with the aim of stirring up hatred of Arabs and Moslems.
The leader of the European Commission's delegation in the Czech Republic, Ramiro Cibrian, told Britain's Financial Times on Thursday that the European Commission would most likely rebuke the Czech government for granting public orders without announcing tenders. The paper said the rebuke would appear in the Commission's annual progress report, to be issued on November 13th. The EU's article 50 enables governments to grand public orders without a preceding tender in unforeseeable situations, but the Czech cabinet has taken this step several times this year alone, which has led to claims of corruption. But Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla, who met the EU Commissioner for Enlargement Gunter Verheugen earlier this week, said this year's progress report will be "significantly positive".
Meanwhile, in this year's annual evaluation reports the European Commission is reportedly planning to confirm the completion of accession talks of countries heading for EU membership and their entry into the EU in 2004. This concerns ten candidate countries, including the Czech Republic. Unnamed sources from the European Commission have announced that eight candidate countries from Eastern and Central Europe will not be divided into groups according to their fulfilment of economic criteria. They will most probably be told they have well-functioning market economies and a chance to fight competition pressure on the common EU market.
The lower house has approved an amendment to a law, under which almost all files kept by the Communist-era secret police are to be declassified and accessible for the public. The amended law stipulates that not only the files of the secret police - the Stb - but also those of all other intelligence and security bodies managed by the Communist party will be open to the public. People will also be allowed to look into Communist Party archive materials from the years 1949 to 1989.
The lower house has also passed two bills on referendum and sent them into a second reading. The first bill, coming from the upper chamber - the Senate, would only demand holding a referendum on the Czech Republic's entry into European Union, while the other bill, proposed by the cabinet, counts on declaring a referendum on all essential problems of internal or foreign policies. The Senates' proposal is likely to gain wide support in the second reading, which would mean that the Czech Republic's entry into the EU would be decided by a public vote. If the referendum on EU entry is successful, it could replace parliament's approval of Czech EU membership.
The Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan said on Thursday that the Melk process on the evaluation of safety at the Temelin nuclear power station could be completed by mid-December and the energy chapter in the EU accession talks closed soon after. He added that he had been in regular contacts with the Austrian Environment Minister Wilhelm Molterer, and that after each meeting with him there were less problems. However there are growing signs in Austria that the Temelin issue could threaten political stability in the country - the junior coalition Freedom Party is demanding a veto of Czech EU membership, even if it means bringing down the Austrian government.
And finally a quick look at the weather: we expect cloudy skies with showers in places on Saturday and Sunday, with occasional mists. Daytime highs should range between 7 and 11 degrees Celsius.
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