Country prepares intensively for its contribution to Iraq's reconstruction

Iraq, photo: CTK

While the world waits for US President Bush to announce the official end of the war in Iraq, six countries are already busy working on a plan to help rebuild the middle eastern state. The Czech Republic, which was not official an ally of the US and Britain during the war but had its anti-chemical unit stationed in neighbouring Kuwait in case of a chemical attack, was one of the six countries invited to join the discussions in Baghdad this week. Dita Asiedu reports:

Iraq, photo: CTK
The Czech Republic and Poland are the only two countries in Central Europe to have been approached to share their experiences in the reconstruction of Iraq, a task reserved for the ORHA - the Office for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Aid, headed by retired US general and post-war administer Jay Garner. It is a responsibility that Czech politicians such as Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda are proud to bear:

"I consider this a very important step for the Czech Republic. It proves that the standpoints of the Czech government and representatives of the Foreign Ministry on Iraq have been realistic and right. As a result, the Czech Republic joins the United States, Great Britain, Poland, Spain and Australia as they try to promote dialogue with Iraqi representatives. The main objective of this intensive dialogue is to calm the situation in the country and introduce a stable administration to the Iraqi people as soon as possible."

Czech army in Basra, photo: CTK
During its sessions this week, the Czech government decided to release 400 million Czech crowns to go towards the reconstruction of Iraq. While most of it, some 360 million crowns, is to serve as subsidies for projects of Czech firms investing in Iraq, the rest is to be used for humanitarian aid and to pay the expenses of a delegation of Czech experts working in the ORHA.

But that could be easier said than done. Some twenty Czech experts are to be sent to Iraq within days and the government is under immense pressure to find them. Requirements for work in the Office for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Aid include a good command of English, extensive knowledge of the social, political, and economic situation in the Arab world, and the ability to leave within days and stay in Iraq for at least a year. According to Education Minister Petra Buzkova, it will be difficult to find suitable candidates even among academics. So far, only one name is certain. On Monday, Foreign Minister Svoboda announced former journalist Janina Hrebickova would be co-ordinating the Czech delegation in Iraq:

"Dr. Hrebickova will travel to Iraq with Defence Ministr Jaroslav Tvrdik and members of the Foreign Ministry. Her professional career qualifies her best for this demanding job- she has worked in South Korea, Israel, London, the Balkans, and also as head of UN television in Kosovo. We hope that other Czech experts will follow her soon."

Since it took just a few hours for the government to earmark millions of Czech crowns for the reconstruction process, Czechs are hoping that it will take just a few days to find the twenty suitable delegates for the work in Iraq.