For eight weeks a team of Czech experts has been working in Iraq as part of the Coalition Provisional Authority, the US-led body administering Iraq since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. The head of the Czech representation, Janina Hrebickova, is currently in Prague, discussing among other things the dangers faced by Czech diplomats in Iraq, which are causing even more concern after the August attack on the United Nations headquarters.
During her stay, Ambassador Janina Hrebickova has met with Czech top officials. She also briefly met with the United States Ambassador to Prague, Craig Stapleton, who praised the work of the Czech mission in post-war Iraq.
"I think the Czech Republic has made a significant contribution in terms of organising the post-war effort there, as I understand thirteen experts are working in Baghdad and several other experts are working in Basra, in important areas of the economy. We understand this is going to be a difficult process. The United States is committed to making it work and certainly appreciates the help that the ambassador and her group is providing."
The fifteen-member Czech team headed by Janina Hrebickova is going to be strengthened by another three or four experts in the coming weeks. In the wake of the recent attack against a UN building in Iraq, the Czech diplomats will receive extra protection from a special force of the Interior Ministry. Ambassador Janina Hrebickova.
"People who were taking care of the security until now, within the past eight weeks, were really professional soldiers. They were doing a very good job and I felt very safe when I was with them. Now we are going to have new colleagues and new experts on security issues. They are going to be from the Ministry of the Interior and I hope and expect that with our destinies and our lives in their hands we are going to be safe."
Ms Hrebickova recently complained about Czech businessmen lacking in initiative in setting up businesses in Iraq. She explained that the mission of her team was not to sign contracts but rather provide expertise, make contacts, and organise logistics. Ms Hrebickova says her delegation has achieved a lot in promoting the Czech Republic in the Middle Eastern country.
"I think we managed to sort of occupy, in a good sense, all the good locations and people, I mean, organisations and institutions in which our people are going to be only more and more known once the Iraqi government is in place and once we stop dealing that much with the coalition partners, meaning the Brits, Americans, Australians etc., and we start dealing much more with the Iraqis themselves."
Before 1990 Czechoslovakia had strong economic ties with Iraq, with Czech and Slovak experts working mainly in the oil industry. The Czechs could now build that tradition during the reconstruction of Iraq, as the US Ambassador to Prague Craig Stapleton points out.
"I think there is a lot of potential for Czech experts and Czech firms to work with Iraqi firms and form joint-ventures and joint-efforts to deal with the specific problems. The Czechs have a history in Iraq, there are many good Arabic speakers among the Czech experts who are there. So the experience that Czechs have had historically in Iraq should be put to the advantage of the coalition."
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