Press review


The dossier on Iraq published by the British government is the lead front page story in all the Czech papers. Iraq could reportedly launch weapons of mass destruction, within 45 minutes -says Mlada Fronta Dnes. According to the British dossier - these weapons are capable of reaching Europe and some of them could arrive on Czechoslovak-made military fighter planes sold to Iraq during the communist era.

The papers have all devoted plenty of space to the controversy over Iraq - noting that despite the contents of the British dossier the majority of European states are not ready to support US military plans against Baghdad. German-US relations have reached an all time low, says Lidove Noviny, noting that US President George Bush is still smarting from the insult of having been compared to Adolf Hitler and is refusing to speak to German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

The paper says that although US officials are maintaining a tough line and claiming they are ready to act alone against Iraq, officials in the White House are secretly worried that the wave of anti-American sentiments could spill over from Germany and spread across Europe.

Hospodarske Noviny notes that the sins of the communist era have come back to haunt us in the form of a very real threat. Iraq not only has dozens of L-29 Dolphin military fighter planes, it has crop spraying aircraft from the former communist Czechoslovakia which could be far more dangerous in biological warfare, an expert told the daily.

The paper reports that between 1961 and 1974 the Czechoslovak plane manufacturer Aero Vodochody produced over 3,500 L-29 Dolphin military aircraft and another 3,000 Albatros planes, a more modern version of the L-29. Those planes were sold to the Middle East, to African and Latin American states, the paper says. It is not clear where they are today and the best one can hope for is that their owners have had trouble getting spare parts for maintenance, says Hospodarske noviny.

The sins of communism are a big topic in the papers these days. Commentators are still smarting from the fact that two former communist leaders were absolved of treason charges in connection with the 1968 Soviet led invasion of Czechoslovakia. And today's Lidove Noviny reports that even the law which was to have opened the former secret service files to the public is proving hard to put into practice.

It is proving to be a slow and painstaking process, the paper says. There is a lack of personnel and a lack of computers, and it is almost certain that a list of former secret service agents which was to have been published within a year of the law's coming into effect will not be ready in time. The impact of the recent floods on government policy remains a big issue -with the papers reporting on growing public discontent with the government's plan to raise taxes and anger in the health sector over the news that, contrary to expectations, doctors and nurses will only get a 7% increase in salaries next year. Mlada Fronta Dnes has devoted a full page to the conditions in which Czech doctors work and says that the opportunities abroad are incomparably better.