Kavan back from NATO consultations
Speaking at a press conference in Prague on his return from NATO consultations in Brussels Czech foreign minister Jan Kavan said that NATO must keep the Kosovo Liberation Army from becoming a strong military force once Yugoslav troops withdraw from the province. While reaffirming the Czech Republic's full support for NATO's air campaign in Yugoslavia, Kavan said a withdrawal of Yugoslav forces from Kosovo must not lead to the re-emergence of KLA activites. The Czech Republic advocates a vigorous approach with respect to the KLA if it does not respect the termination of military operations in Kosovo, Kavan stressed. A US official reported Monday that the US had rejected a KLA request for arms, because Washington did not want to endanger support among allies for the NATO campaign or legitimize any other party supplying arms to the region.
The Czech foreign minister also expressed the Czech Republic's support for a proposed Marshall type plan for the eventual reconstruction of Yugoslavia. Kavan said it had been stressed on many occasions that NATO was not waging a war against the Yugoslav people and he believed it was time even now to think about helping to reconstruct the war- torn region. The plan is to be discussed in detail at future international meetings.
Czech defense minister Vladimir Vetchy has rejected the notion that the Czech Republic's performance in NATO these past few weeks could discourage further NATO expansion . This view is held among others by President Havel, who said in a televised interview on Monday that the conflicting stands regarding NATO air strikes have not gone unnoticed in Brussels and that the Czech Republic's lack of loyalty to its new allies could discourage further expansion. Defense minister Vetchy countered that the government had approached its duties with utmost responsibility and could not be faulted. The statements issued by Cabinet have been adequate to the circumstances, Vetchy stressed. The Civic Democratic Party, whose representatives have on numerous occasions criticized the air strikes have likewise rejected the President's claim, saying that the Czech Republic had clearly fulfilled its duties as a NATO member, while retaining the right to debate the issue and voice an opinion. In a related development, Civic Democratic Party leader Vaclav Klaus is demanding a public apology from the daily Mlada Fronta Dnes for allegedly twisting his words and claiming that "Vaclav Klaus has given his full support to the Yugoslav dictator" in one of the paper's recent editions. The Civic Democratic Party leader said he had never made an even remotely similar statement and that he most certainly did not support Milosevic.
Work on a revitalization plan for the Czech industry has been concluded and it is to be put to Cabinet at its Wednesday session. This particular draft combines the best of two earlier proposals, one by industry and trade minister Miroslav Gregr the other by vice- premier for the economy Pavel Mertlik. The plan outlines means of providing state assistance to a restricted number of ailing companies which, after they were back on their feet, would once again be privatized.
The Cabinet will also debate aid to Kosovo refugees. The means of financing the 1 billion crown aid package is still unclear and while the government is inclined to raise the state deficit by the respective sum there have been signals that such a proposal would not win approval in Parliament.
The most recent round of talks between government and Church representatives indicates that the government favours a full restitution of Church property in return for an end to state financing of Church salaries and administrative expenses. Other alternatives are still open however since the proposed law on relations between the Church and State is not due to be scrutinized by the Cabinet before the autumn of next year.
Communist party leader Miroslav Grebenicek has rejected criticism voiced at the weekend conference of the Social Democratic Party at which its leader Milos Zeman said Czech communists had made no effort to present a new face to the public and distance themselves from old communist doctrines and practices. Grebenicek said Zeman's words were unjust and that the verbal attack had been made in an attempt to win back thousands of former Social Democrat voters who had crossed over to the Communist Party. The Social Democrats have recently lost close to half a million supporters and the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia claims to have won over roughly 250 of them.
Interior minister Vaclav Grulich is expected to return to office at the start of next week, after a lengthy illness. The interior minister spent several weeks in hospital and taking spa treatment after being rushed to hospital with intestinal problems in the second half of February. Doctors say he is now doing well and capable of working full time.
Wednesday should be another overcast and fairly cold day with temps between 6 and 10 degs C. Nighttime lows 4 to 0 degs.
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