Defence Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik has said he could send another 100 chemical weapons experts to strengthen a special Czech army unit currently stationed in Kuwait if the United States needs the extra support in a war against Iraq. A 250-strong Czech unit has been stationed in Kuwait since last March to train alongside similar German and American units as the US builds its military presence in the region ahead of a possible attack against Iraq. The Czech cabinet and parliament are expected to decide next week whether to give the army permission to send the unit from Kuwait into another country, presumably Iraq, if war breaks out. Czech troops were present during the last Gulf War, and have become known for their expertise in anti-chemical weapons tactics.
The United States' request for Czech cooperation in possible military operations against Iraq could meet with unexpectedly serious problems and resistance of many deputies, reactions in the lower house of the Czech parliament have shown. The government should even count with the possibility that it will not gain support for the US request in the lower house, the CTK news agency reported. According to preliminary considerations, the lower house could start to discuss the US request during its extraordinary session next Thursday. Only representatives of the junior coalition Freedom Union clearly said they would support the US request while the Communists are against it.
The vice-governor of the Czech National Bank, Oldrich Dedek, has said the Czech Republic will have to implement a reform of public finance which would be still more radical than the reform proposed by the Finance Ministry if it wants to adopt the single European currency fast. The state of public finance is the biggest obstacle for an early adoption of the euro and a major risk of the Czech economy's growth, Mr Dedek said. The proposed reform is supposed to reduce the public finance deficit to 5 percent of GDP in 2006, while the limit for the adoption of the euro is 3 percent. The central bank is in favour of the earliest possible adoption of the euro, preferably in 2007. It recommends fast reform and considers the current proposal of the Finance Ministry not radical enough.
A year-old plan for tighter government control of the Czech-produced plastic explosive Semtex has stalled in the Czech Republic, the Prague Post has reported on its Internet site. Citing experts familiar with the proposed government takeover of Semtex's private manufacturer Explosia, the report said the delay could last another year and may allow more of the plastic explosive to reach terrorist networks, such as al-Qaeda. A US terrorism analyst told the newspaper that Semtex was still being taken out of the Czech Republic and traded on the black market to various terrorist organizations. Semtex was blamed for the 1988 destruction of a Pan Am jetliner over Lockerbie, Scotland, and other attacks. In January 2002, Prague officials approved a plan to transfer control of Explosia from its parent company, Aliachem, to the Czech government. The goal was to more closely monitor production and sales of Semtex following the September 11, 2001, attacks against the United States.
A former employee of the Tunisian embassy has been accused of dealing heroin for years in Prague. Police say the 40-year-old man was arrested overnight after selling a woman customer 7 grams of heroin. Detectives later found money and more drugs in the man's home, leading him to admit that he had been selling heroin in the city since the mid-1990s. The man worked at the Tunisian embassy in Prague during the late 1980s. He faces up to five years in prison.
Friday is expected to be cloudy to overcast with snow showers in places. Daytime temperatures should range from minus 8 to minus 4 degrees Celsius.
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