04-10-2001

The international situation following the terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11th, remains at the forefront of media attention. Tension has now reached fever pitch and it is impossible to open a paper without finding speculation as to when D-day will arrive, with observers basing their predictions on the ongoing political negotiations, the phases of the moon in the coming days and even the weather in Afghanistan. Pravo has placed President Havel's view that the attack is likely to start within 24 hours in bold type on its front page.

Lidove Noviny also features a dramatic headline. "Bin Ladin's terrorists were drilled by a Czech" the headline reads. The claim, first made by Bill Gertz in Wednesday's edition of the Washington Times, appears to be well grounded and has been confirmed by the Czech Intelligence Service as well as the Foreign Ministry. Members of the Al Quaeda organization were allegedly drilled by a group of 130 instructors from Egypt, Sudan, Yemen, Iraq, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria.

According to information made available by the Russian Intelligence Service more than one Czech was involved. However the Czech Foreign Ministry has been unable to confirm this. "We only know about one person , we know when he left for Afghanistan and what he did there," a foreign ministry spokesman told Lidove Noviny.

Hospodarske Noviny has been able to glean more information on the activities of Muhammad Atta, one of the kamikadze pilots involved in the attack on the World Trade Centre. Muhammad Atta spent a day in Prague shortly before he underwent flight training in Florida. Although he did not leave the transit space at Prague's Ruzyne Airport, the Czech Intelligence Service has reportedly confirmed that Atta contacted one or more Iraqui agents in the course of that day. This is the first serious indication that Iraq may have played a role in the terrorist plot, the paper notes.

The emergence of a broad anti-terrorist alliance has led observers to speculate about the changing role of Russia in international affairs. Just a few months ago President Havel's advise that Russia should be negotiated with but kept outside of the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance was given serious attention in Brussles and Washington. Now the policy of keeping Russia a friend without making it an ally has tumbled, says Petr Fisher in Mlada Fronta Dnes.

The need for a broad anti-terrorist front has created new priorities in international affairs and Russian President Vladimir Putin has grabbed the chance to boost Russia's role in European and world decision making. Photographed shaking hands with leading EU and NATO officials, President Putin hinted that Russia would not oppose NATO's expansion eastward if Russia itself could become more involved. This is a chance for Russia to effect a come-back, Fisher says , and the change of tone we have witnessed over the past two weeks suggests that Russia is not about to let this opportunity slip through its fingers, quotes Mlada Fronta Dnes.

04-10-2001