09-10-2001

All of today's papers focus once again on the 'war against terror' that broke out late on Sunday evening with the U.S. led air strikes on terrorist targets in Afghanistan. All papers provide in-depth reports, using charts and time codes, of the developments throughout the time of the strikes. Mlada fronta Dnes and Lidove noviny both give a detailed view of reactions from the USA's largest and strongest allies before moving on to reactions in the Czech Republic.

It is not until the ninth page of Mlada fronta Dnes that Czech reactions are discussed. The paper writes that Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman and the Speaker of the Lower House and main opposition leader, Vaclav Klaus, held a meeting on Monday evening to discuss future co-operation between the government and parliament in the fight against terrorism. In reaction to recent information that the United States could go on to take retaliatory steps against other organisations and other countries, the paper quotes Mr Klaus as saying that he and the Prime Minister were taking this possibility very seriously, as it could have an effect on Czech citizens and a number of Czech initiatives in the countries in question. The paper reports that the two senior politicians also discussed the future of civic defence and the necessity of establishing a professional army as soon as possible. The decision to intensify co-operation, according to Mr Klaus, however did not mean that his party would support the highly criticised proposed draft state budget for next year, the paper concludes.

Lidove noviny also reports on the Zeman-Klaus meeting, adding that besides in the armed forces and civic defence, reforms should also be made in the intelligence services and other security services. The paper says that both politicians furthermore agreed that parliament should adopt a law, as soon as possible, which would assure state financial backing for Czech Airlines in times of crises, such as the loss of ticket sales currently experienced by the airline as a result of the war against terrorism.

Besides the meeting, Lidove noviny also features an article evaluating the time it took for Czech politicians to react to the launch of the U.S. led strikes on terrorist targets in Afghanistan. The paper says that whilst leaders of the West reacted just minutes after U.S. President George W. Bush publicly announced the launch of the attacks at 7pm CET, there was silence on the Czech political scene. The paper lists German Chancellor, Gerhard Schroder, and French President Jacques Chirac as having been the first to react. Shortly after that, Slovak President Rudolf Schuster addressed the Slovak people. Two hours after the launch, however, only the politicians' spokespersons were available and even they only made uncertain statements, the paper writes.

The first politician to give a public reaction on Czech Television was the Speaker of the Lower House, Vaclav Klaus, shortly after 8pm CET and he tried to calm the Czech people by assuring them - minutes after British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced that Britain was involved in the attacks - that it was only the Americans who were at war. Czech President Vaclav Havel held a press conference just before 9pm CET and the Deputy Prime Minister, Vladimir Spidla appeared on television just before 10pm CET. He was the first cabinet minister to react.

The Czech Interior Ministry is screening thousands of people of Arab origin living in the Czech Republic, but has not adopted any other emergency security measures since the military air strikes on terrorist targets in Afghanistan began, writes Prazske slovo. The paper describes all security measures taken by the state since the air strikes, and quotes Deputy Interior Minister Petr Ibl as saying that the only steps taken have been the strengthening of surveillance at the US embassy and at the Dukovany nuclear power plant. The paper comments that although the US embassy requested increased protection last Tuesday, it had to wait until Friday before any soldiers arrived. The reason for the delay, it writes, was the fact that the request was made to the Defence Ministry and needed to be approved by the Interior Ministry first.

Lidove noviny writes that Czech Agriculture Minister Jan Fencl has proposed Czech beef should form part of Czech humanitarian aid for Afghan refugees. The Foreign Ministry, which is currently co-ordinating the humanitarian aid programme, has rejected Mr Fencl's offer, saying that meat was not the primary necessity in the region, adding that sending nutrition would not make sense as the Czech Republic has not been asked for this type of aid. The paper says that the Agriculture Ministry had tried to include beef in humanitarian aid once before, to refugee camps in Serbia - but was rejected due to the fear of contracting BSE. The ministry is therefore trying to use left-over resources that were designated for Kosovo for the aid meant for Afghan refugees, the paper writes.

09-10-2001